Iran to open 150 alcohol treatment centres

Iranian police dump confiscated beer cans in Tehran in 2009. The possession, production and consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden in the Islamic Republic and police often raid smugglers and illegal parties AFP PHOTO/FARZIN NEMATI (AFP Photo/Farzin Nemati) (AFP)

Tehran (AFP) - Iran plans to open 150 alcohol treatment centres, a health ministry official said on Monday, in an acknowledgement of the scale of abuse in a country where drinking is illegal.

The head of the ministry's drug abuse department, Dr Alireza Norouzi, told the ISNA news agency that the 150 day centres would provide special settings and educational courses to help people give up alcohol.

Six of the centres to be opened by March 2016 would also provide in-patient detoxification, Norouzi said.

Iran opened its first detoxification centre in Tehran in late 2013.

Authorities estimate that as many as 200,000 Iranians have an alcohol problem despite the ban on drinking in force since the Islamic revolution of 1979.

The sole exemption is for Iran's Christian minority, which is allowed to produce wine for use in mass.

But liquor is widely produced illicitly, leading to frequent reports of deaths from adulterated alcohol. It is also smuggled in from neighbouring countries, particularly Turkey and Kurdish parts of Iraq.

Traffic police already introduced roadside breath tests several years ago in a bid to tackle drink driving. Offenders face a fine of two million rials ($67 at the official rate).