Iran Opening 150 Treatment Centers to Address Alcoholism

By McCarton Ackerman 08/10/15

Drinking alcohol in Iran is classified as a crime against God.

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Alcohol has been banned for more than 35 years under the Islamic regime, but Iran is now planning to open more than 150 treatment centers to address alcoholism in the Muslim country.

The centers will all be outpatient facilities, but six will also have resources for inpatient detoxing. An exact timetable on when they will be built hasn’t been set, but government officials are hoping to launch them in the near future.

Drinking alcohol in Iran is classified as a crime against God and is punishable by lashings. Repeat offenders could potentially receive the death penalty, although this is more in theory than in practice. It is still unclear whether those who ask for treatment at one of the facilities could potentially receive punishment for essentially admitting to a law violation.

But despite the booze ban for Muslim Iranians, many still drink at home either by smuggling liquor inside or brewing their own alcohol that often contains high levels of pure alcohol. However, homemade alcohol can carry potential health risks including blindness and even death.

Because of the lack of education on alcohol, since it is culturally unacceptable, many drinkers are even unaware that alcohol is addictive or physically impairing. Authorities across the country complain about increased levels of drunk driving.

The Iranian government has finally admitted in recent years that alcoholism is a problem within the country. Their own figures suggest 200,000 people in the country are alcoholics, although that number could be much higher.

Deputy Health Minister Alireza Mesdaghinia said in 2012 that, "Personal reasons are the most important factors which lead to the spread of alcohol consumption in society. Some think this is a way [to cope] with their frustrations."

Dr. Reza Afshari, president of the Asia Pacific Association of Medical Toxicology, also stated in May 2014 that about one million people in the country were regular drinkers. Perhaps surprisingly, women comprised 30% of this population.

Iran opened its first state-run rehab for alcoholism last August. A handful of private centers have also operated in the country since September 2013, but most are lacking in adequate facilities and staff.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.