“Buying alcoholic beverages takes 17 minutes”

The Islamic Republic does not allow alcohol. In the wake of other social problems, alcohol abuse has increased, even in Iran. Under an ideologically shiny surface, one can find the same social problems as in other parts of the world—and as long as no one can speak of them, they only become worse.

June 10 2013 Text: Alireza Akbari

In some countries, selling and drinking alcoholic beverages is prohibited and considered as a crime. Iran is on the list of such countries. Despite all existing prohibitions, consumption of alcoholic drinks is currently rising in the country.

According to the statistics announced by the Medical Forensics Organization, 93 people lost their lives due to alcohol consumption in 2012-2013. Among these people, 86 people were men and 7 people were women.

The Medical Forensics Organization announced that deaths due to alcohol consumption were 18 cases in Tehran which is the highest among other cities.

According to Dr. Bagher Larijani, the Head of Ministry of Health's Policy-Making Council, prevalence of alcohol consumption in southern parts of Tehran has become unprecedentedly high which has caused great concerns. According to him, these concerns must be seriously taken into consideration. Larijani believes that alcoholic beverages are openly sold in some supermarkets, a fact that we cannot remain indifferent to.

After the Islamic Revolution, production, distribution and trading of alcoholic beverages were banned in Iran. Based on the Islamic Republic law, 80 lashes (called “Had” in Islam) is defined as the punishment for drinking alcoholic beverages. If a person drinks alcoholic drinks several times and each time he is sentenced to Had (80 lashes), he will be sentenced to death penalty at the third time. After the Islamic regime prohibited consumption of alcoholic drinks, the tendency to use fake and homemade alcoholic drinks increased. These homemade drinks are produced using sleeping pills and drugs in underground labs. Their consumption entails serious risks.

With the rise in the tendency of teenagers and the youth to use alcoholic beverages in recent years, officials have expressed increasing concerns over the issue; however, they have not taken any measure to reduce the consumption. Although the statistics presented by the Medical Forensics Organization indicated that alcohol consumption has increased in Iran, the police force repudiated the rise of alcoholic drinks consumption. The police have asked for evidence from those who claim alcoholic beverages are sold at supermarkets.

Since drinking alcohol and alcoholic beverages is considered a crime in Iran, there are no exact statistics of the prevalence of alcoholic drinks consumption.

Twenty million liters of alcoholic beverages is annually discovered by the police; however, ” Chief of Iran's National Police, Commander Esmaeeil Ahmadi Moghaddam, believes that this is only 25 percent of the alcoholic beverages smuggled into the country.

The director-general of the Health Ministry's Mental Health Department also talks about lack of exact statistics and insufficient information on addicted people, saying “There is little statistical information about alcohol addiction in the country; however, it does not mean that Iranians do not use alcoholic drinks. We have to increase our trusteeship in prevention and treatment of these addicts”. According to Dr. Abbasali Nasehi, there are currently 2 million addicts in the country, a part of which are alcohol addicts. This senior official of Health Ministry said “Iranian government has every intention of ‘preventing and treating alcohol abuse’ and thus has established the “National Committee against Alcoholic Beverages”.

There are various factors influencing the youth’s tendency to social disorders. According to a member of the cultural commission of eighth Islamic Parliament, cultural, social and economic factors are among the most important factors in people’s tendency to alcohol or drug abuse. Javad Arianmanesh points out that unemployment is the most important factor in social disorders, especially the tendency to alcohol and drug abuse.

The representative of the people of Mashhad in the eighth Parliament believes that government planning is the best measure to fight addiction. According to him, “credit funds are allocated annually to enrich the youth’s free time. In 2012-2013 (1391), a significant amount of budget has been allocated for this purpose, but this is not enough”. As stated by the member of the Islamic Parliament, the government has only spoken about the disadvantages of alcohol and drug addiction during recent years. It is repeatedly said to the youth that consumption of alcoholic beverages is harmful, but there is no action to fill their free time or to solve the issue of their employment. So, all that is said is useless if there is no action.

Aryanmanesh introduces the government as primarily responsible for the shortcomings and believes that employment, fruitful free time and an optimal life must be provided for the young generation with an exact and targeted planning, otherwise we will hear about increasing social disorders. The member of the eighth Parliament points out that the lack of management in budget per capita is the primary cause of problems, especially unemployment.

Dr. Seyyed Mahdi Saberi, Chairman of Forensic Psychiatric Examinations, does not consider unemployment as the main reason for addiction, unlike the Parliament member. He believes that there are many reasons for a person inclination towards alcoholic beverages and therefore unemployment and economic factors cannot be known as the only reasons for alcohol and drug addiction and it is a superficial and rudimentary understanding.

According to some criminologists, there is a natural relationship between rise in crimes and rise in social problems. To escape from everyday problems, the youth who need peace resort to alcohol. The abundance of alcoholic beverages and also the proliferation of social disorders cause increase in drug and alcohol consumption.

No official research has been done or published in the country in the field of alcohol consumption statistics but some of MA and PhD researches have concluded that average age of alcohol consumption has fallen below 20 years, and 26.5 percent of the youth who have a record of alcohol consumption, had already consumed alcohol in their families. Center of Drug Control announced in a report that the average time of access to different types of drugs is 22 minutes and to alcoholic beverages is 17 minutes. Some officials recently announced that there has been a significant decrease in the abovementioned average time.

Accordingly, the Economist magazine wrote last year that alcoholic drinks trade in the Middle East has increased by 72 percent between 2001 and 2011. According to this report, the average global alcohol consumption is 30 percent and the number of alcohol consumers in Iran has increased compared to previous years.

Currently, alcohol consumption in Iran is rising due to a ban on its use. Some people lose their lives due to drinking non-standard beverages annually. Although the Islamic Republic is making an all-out effort to ban alcoholic drinks, the average consumption age is decreasing and consumption amount is increasing every year.