Bihar's alcoholics have been left dry without a high. After the Nitish Kumar government banned all alcohol in the state on Tuesday, doctors have had to deal with hundreds of people going through alcohol withdrawal. Without the booze, many got the jitters, literally. Some people failed to recognize family members and one man even ate a bunch of soap bars hoping to get high. As of Wednesday, at least 749 such people were brought to the state's 38 new de-addiction centres, according to reports received by the State Health Society of Bihar (SHSB).
The 30-year-old man who failed to recognize his family used to drink 600-1200ml of country liquor every day until March 31, after which desi booze was banned. "He could not stand properly when he was brought. He is experiencing tremors on and off," said an Aurangabad de-addiction centre's officer, Dr R K Singh, told TOI.
Television channels on Wednesday showed an alcoholic in Bettiah district chewing a soap bar in his desperation to consume "anything like liquor". Some de-addiction centres reported that people ate large amounts of paper and downed painkillers to get high.
"Also, the de-addiction centre at Nalanda Medical College & Hospital in Patna has referred to us a teenage patient who had turned pretty violent. His family members told us the boy was a heavy drinker and had started chewing whatever he could lay his hands on, including chilli, since Tuesday," said Rakhi Sharma, a counsellor from Disha, a private rehab centre roped in by the government to assist in its de-addiction drive.
"Ninety-six of them have been admitted and are being administered injectable drugs," an SHSB official told TOI. He added that the 150 doctors and 45 counsellors - specially trained to deal with alcohol withdrawal - have been on their toes following the ban that came into effect on Tuesday.
Still, Disha's Sharma doesn't see any reason for panic. "This was expected. Confused orientation and violence are common withdrawal symptoms to hit heavy drinkers suddenly deprived of alcohol," she said. The government has taken note of these cases. It has now decided to make treatment - and not just counselling - available at primary health centres.
"More nurses will be stationed at the de-addiction centres opened at the district hospitals. Their capacity would also be increased from 10 to 20 beds immediately," an SHSB official said. De-addiction centres will now be opened in five of the six medical colleges as well.
In the meanwhile, an irate ex-serviceman filed a petition in the Patna high court against the "draconian, arbitrary and mala fide" prohibition of alcohol by the Bihar government. AN Singh's petition says the ban violates people's freedom to eat and drink whatever they want. The court has yet to fix a date to hear his plea.