KABUL, 21 June 2010 â€“ A survey on Drug Use in Afghanistan, issued today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, shows that around one million Afghans (age 15-64) suffer from drug addiction. At eight per cent of the population, this rate is twice the global average. â€œAfter three decades of war-related trauma, unlimited availability of cheap narcotics and limited access to treatment have created a major, and growing, addiction problem in Afghanistan,â€ said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa.
â€œThe human face of Afghanistanâ€™s drug problem is not only seen on the streets of Moscow, London or Paris. It is in the eyes of its own citizens, dependent on a daily dose of opium and heroin above all – but also cannabis, painkillers and tranquilizers,â€ said Mr. Costa.
â€œMany Afghans are taking drugs as a kind of self-medication against the hardships of life. Significantly, many of them began taking drugs as migrants or refugees in camps in Iran and Pakistan,â€ noted Mr. Costa. Yet, instead of easing pain, opiate use is causing even greater misery: it creates behavioural, social and health problems, crime, accidents, and loss of productivity in the workplace. Injecting drug use, as well as sex traded for drugs or money, spread HIV and other blood-borne diseases.
During the past five years (in 2005 a similar survey was done), in Afghanistan the number of regular opium users has jumped 53 per cent, from 150,000 to 230,000 while the number of heroin users has increased from 50,000 to 120,000, a leap of 140 per cent. â€œIn Afghanistan the growth of addiction to narcotics has followed the same hyperbolic pattern of opium production,â€ observed Mr. Costa.
One of the most shocking statistics in this report is the number of parents who give opium to their children; as high as 50 per cent of drug users in the north and south of the country. â€œThis risks condemning the next generation of Afghans to a life of addiction, â€ said Mr. Costa.
The report reveals a major shortage of drug treatment. Only ten per cent of drug users surveyed had received any form of drug treatment, although 90 per cent of them felt that they were in need of it. â€œMore than 700,000 Afghans have no access to drug treatment. I invite the nations that support Afghanistanâ€™s efforts to curb drug cultivation to help it as well overcome its drug-related health crisis,â€ said Mr. Costa. He called for much greater resources for drug prevention and treatment in Afghanistan, as part of mainstream healthcare and development programmes.
â€œMuch has been said, and written, about Afghanistan as a leading producer of drugs, causing health havoc in the world. It is time to recognize that the same tragedy is taking place in Afghanistan, that has now become a leading consumer of its own opium,â€ said Mr. Costa.
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