Amid the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19, the national helpline witnessed a spike of about 200% with distress calls from alcoholics and drug addicts, triggering concern in the government to help them.
A data report by the social defense division of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment revealed that the calls were made mostly because of the withdrawal syndrome, like restlessness and anxiety, as liquor shops are shut and there's no supply of alcohol, cigarettes, or any drug amid the lockdown.
The report further compares the number of calls received at an average of 90 between March 15- 21 which went up to an average of 266 calls per day between March-end to April 5.
Between March 22-31, the maximum number of calls received were from Uttar Pradesh (73), Delhi (34), Madhya Pradesh (31), and Gujarat (29). Whereas, from April 1st-12th the record kept Uttar Pradesh leading with 203 calls, followed by Bihar (36), Maharashtra (119), and Madhya Pradesh (109).
According to The Times of India, the "helpline executives" were counseling callers who were facing moderate symptoms. However, people with severe symptoms were getting redirected to the Integrated Rehabilitation Centers (IRC).
In Kerala, by March 30, the state registered around eight cases of suicide by individuals who failed to cope up with the withdrawal symptoms, prompting the Pinarayi Vijayan government to allow people to purchase liquor from government-notified vendors with doctor's prescription.