With suicide cases being reported from various parts of the state after liquor sales were stopped following the Coronavirus lockdown, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan directed the Excise Department to provide liquor to those with a prescription from doctors.

The government has also asked the Excise Department to provide free treatment to and admit people with withdrawal symptoms to de-addiction centers.

The Chief Minister said that the government is also considering the option of online sale of liquor as the sudden unavailability of alcohol may lead to social problems.

The move comes after many reportedly showed acute withdrawal symptoms and suicide cases were reported in the state.

On Saturday, in Kodungaloor in Thrissur district, a youth committed suicide by jumping into the river after suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

Meanwhile, medical professionals are now up in arms over the Kerala government’s decision to make alcohol available, through the Excise Department, for those with alcohol craving based on prescription by a doctor.

Kerala Government Medical Officers Association on Sunday said that it is unethical and against medical practice to do this.

“We will not do such a thing and the government should withdraw this direction,” said the doctors’ body.

Meanwhile, the Indian Society of Gastroenterology’s Kerala Chapter, while appreciating the steps taken by the state government in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, said they are concerned about its recent decision to make alcohol available through the Excise Department for those with alcohol craving.

“We take care of patients with alcohol withdrawal syndrome in consultation with psychiatrists by pharmacological means. Moreover, we have been strongly advocating and advising patients with alcohol related liver disease and harmful drinking practices to abstain from alcohol. Our training and the guidelines from international societies do not recommend use of alcohol as treatment for these patients. Hence it raises an ethical and scientific dilemma for us to recommend alcohol to these patients with alcohol use disorder,” said the ISG

“This would also send a wrong message to public at large regarding alcohol intake and the treatment for withdrawal syndrome. In the current situation, we feel this may be a blessing in disguise to treat patients with alcohol use disorder and in fact would help patients with alcohol addiction,” it added.

The state government, a few days after the lockdown began, finally decided to close down all the bars and then the retail outlets selling liquor and beer in the state.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, whenever asked why is that he is not closing down these retail outlets, said that if it happens, then there will be other social issues created by the addicts.

But after all the outlets were closed on Wednesday and the first case of suicide related to non-availability of liquor came, he was quick to point out the repeated questions on the outlets being open.