Methamphetamine production and abuse of hard drugs are skyrocketing inIran

February 17, 2015 3:23 pm
Officials say methamphetamine production and abuse of hard drugs are
skyrocketing in the country despite potentially lethal criminal
penalties for users if they are caught. The increase is partly because
of ’s status as the gateway for the region’s top drug exporter,
– and partly because Iranian dealers are profiting so
handsomely from sales to overstressed students and exhausted
double-jobbers.

An addict uses crystal meth in a street in Tehran, Iran. Photo / AP

Ghazal Tolouian, a psychologist who treats dozens
of meth addicts at a therapy camp in a mountain village northwest of
Tehran, says most of her clients fall into two categories: students “who
want to pass university entrance exams successfully,” and “people who
have to work a second and third shift to make ends meet and earn more
money.”

Drug addicts sleep in their chairs at a drop in center and shelter south of Tehran. Photo / AP
Drug addicts sleep in their chairs at a drop in center and shelter south of Tehran. Photo / AP

Anti-narcotics and medical officials say more than 2.2 million of
Iran’s 80 million citizens already are addicted to illegal drugs,
including 1.3 million on registered treatment programs.

They say the numbers keep rising annually, even though use of
the death penalty against convicted smugglers has increased, too, and
now accounts for more than nine of every 10 executions.
Parviz
Afshar, an anti-narcotics official, said for every lab they detect, two
more might spring up, often involving small-scale “cooks” operating in
residences where meth production is particularly hard to detect. He said
police found and destroyed at least 416 meth labs in the 12-month
period up to March, up from 350 in the previous 12-month period.
Iran’s
health ministry was slow to finance rehabilitation clinics nationwide,
but a growing network of private camps has sprung up that partly receive
state financing, some of them run by former or recovering addicts.

Female drug addicts play pantomine at a treatment centre northwest of Tehran. Photo / AP
Female drug addicts play pantomine at a treatment centre northwest of Tehran. Photo / AP
“When I set up this shelter, authorities didn’t support me.
But after several years of hard work, they were convinced that it’s
better to provide care and shelter to addicts,” said Majid Mirzaei,
manager of a Tehran shelter for drug addicts and a former addict
himself. His facility provides free food, syringes, condoms, medical
care and a place to sleep to addicts in a crowded neighborhood in south
Tehran.
“Drug addiction is a fact. It can’t be eliminated but you
can manage it correctly,” Mirzaei said as he changed a bandage on an
addict’s wound.
Officials say Iran’s taste for illegal narcotics
is certain to expand into greater abuse of heroin, simply because next
door is Afghanistan, maker of three-fourths of the world supply.

An addict sleeps with her children a makeshift shelter in Tehran. Photo / AP
An addict sleeps with her children a makeshift shelter in Tehran. Photo / AP
Abbas Deilamzadeh, whose Rebirth Society organization runs
dozens of rehabilitation centers, predicts that more people currently
experimenting with meth soon will be using heroin, simply because Iran
is the main route for Afghan heroin dealers to export the drug
worldwide.
The United Nations drug agency said the total area
under opium poppy cultivation in neighboring Afghanistan in 2014 was
estimated at 224,000 hectares (864 square miles), a 17 percent increase
from 2013, producing about 6,400 metric tons (7,054 tons) of opium. Most
is grown in the often-lawless Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the
south.
Those at the clinics tell tales of their profoundly
misguided notions about taking meth, specifically that it would help
them stay awake and wouldn’t become addictive.
“I used to work on
board a train and had to stay up every night until morning,” said
Javad, a meth addict who didn’t give his last name to protect his
identity.
Javad said he used meth for six years in hopes of
earning more money by working longer hours. But last year, he collapsed
on a train midway through one night’s work and was fired. For the past
four months, he’s been getting help at a Tehran clinic.

A social worker speaks to addicts at a treatment camp northwest of Tehran. Photo / AP
A social worker speaks to addicts at a treatment camp northwest of Tehran. Photo / AP
Javad says he had no idea how badly his life would become as an addict. “At first,” he said, “it was a lot of fun to use.”
Iran has also stepped up a public awareness campaign to prevent and slow down the dangerous trend.
“Increasing
public awareness about the dangers of illicit drugs is the best
remedy,” said Homayoun Hashemi, the head of Iran’s State Welfare
Organization.

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