Despite being banned in Pakistan, alcohol is easily available across the country, prompting rising alcoholism and a growing trade in clinics trying to treat middle-class patients. Demand for alcoholism counselling is so brisk in Pakistan that many clinics now take out prominent newspaper ads, some depicting a depressed man nursing a glass of scotch- a rare public nod towards a thinly veiled drinking culture.

drsadaqat“There’s plenty of business,” said Dr Sadaqat Ali, a leading addiction counsellor whose chain of clinics treated 500 alcoholics this year. He counted bureaucrats, politicians, army generals and even the families of mullahs among his clients. “That’s our target market. We call it the golden triangle: rich, educated and influential,” he said. Dr Sadaqat Ali estimates that ten million Pakistanis drink alcohol, one million of whom have a problem. “With our culture of hospitality, it’s hard to say ”no”,” he said.

Treatment is expensive by local standards, typically costing upwards of 85 pounds a night, and some clinics have even engaged in “forceful” interventions, drugging alcoholics at the instigation of desperate relatives to kickstart the cure. The other option is Alcoholics Anonymous, which has at least one group in Karachi. Unlike the clinics it is hard to find: no ads, no phone numbers, just a simple web page. “Most people find it through word of mouth,” said a former member, adding that it has operated for more than 15 years. 

Courtesy by: 

Edited by: Haroon Christy Munir