BANGKOK — Up to 100,000 Thais who are severely dependent on alcohol are at risk amid the nationwide booze ban, an expert said Monday.
According to Sawitri Assanangkornchai, the director of Center for Alcohol Studies at Prince of Songkla University, the withdrawal syndromes include high fever, profuse sweating, nausea, seizures, and severe anxiety. The ban on alcohol sale was imposed in a bid to deter large gatherings and minimize coronavirus infection risk, officials said.
“These people must be monitored,” Sawitri said by phone. “If the situation is severe, then the person must be taken to hospital.”
Sawitri said drinking alcohol, even when done alone, weakens one’s immune system and makes people more prone to being at risk of coronavirus infections.
She said around 1 million Thais are dependent on alcohol, and as much as 10 percent of them are considered to be severely dependent – the common term “alcoholics” comes to mind, though Sawitri said the word is loaded. They could experience withdrawal symptoms as soon as within six hours or up to within three days.
The director added that those severely dependent on alcohol should not stop drinking right away; instead, they should seek to drink less and less.
Government spokesman Taweesin Visanuyothin also advised those experiencing alcohol withdrawal, such as hearing strange voices, to seek medical treatment immediately.
According to Sawitri, at least one man in Buriram is believed to have died due to alcohol withdrawal over the weekend.
A construction worker also climbed a tamarind tree in Nonthaburi on Monday morning, reportedly because he could not buy alcohol for his daily consumption. Rescue workers spent an hour trying to talk him down, to no avail. The man eventually fell down and was taken to a police station for questioning.
While Sawitri sees more room to reduce alcohol dependency, such as limiting the sale time of the day further, she said Thailand is still far from the ranks of heavy drinkers in the world, compared to China, South Korea, and Japan.