An Iranian official announced Monday that the country would open 150 alcoholism treatment centers by March 2016, although drinking alcohol is illegal for the vast majority of Iranians.
Six of the clinics will function as in-patient detox centers, while the rest will be daytime centers to support those trying to quite alcohol, according to the health ministry’s drug treatment chief Alireza Norouzi.
Iran’s health ministry opened its first alcohol rehab clinic last year, noting that alcohol abuse was on the rise around Iran. The year before, it launched an experimental program to license private clinics. Officials estimate that there are 200,000 alcoholics in the country.
The law in Iran prohibits possessing or consuming alcohol for Muslims, who are over 90% of the population. But Christians, most of whom are ethnic Armenians and Assyrians, may drink and distill spirits in private, as well as use wine in religious services. As a result, Armenian and Assyrian Christians dominate Iran’s underground market for liquor, smuggling it into the country and disseminating it at hefty profits. (RELATED: World’s Most Infamous Hookup App Catches On In Islamist Iran)
Because most Iranians can only obtain alcohol on the black market, smuggled and adulterated goods dominate their consumption. Traffic accidents are the third-highest cause of death in Iran, and a recent random search of Iranian drivers found that 26 percent of them were drunk.
This is not the first time Iran’s government has invested big bucks in solving an inconvenient problem. Iran also contains millions of drug addicts, who mostly consume opium, crystal meth and heroin. As a result, the government supports drug treatment programs across the country.
Though the bulk of that work is performed by private clinics, outside observers often call Iran’s drug policy surprisingly “progressive.” Iran decriminalized addiction in 2010, though its authorities still arrest, whip and even execute people for using and possessing drugs.
Iran also has the Middle East’s most active “needle exchange” program, where it distributes clean syringes to people who inject drugs, in order to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.
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