Drug addicts at a shelter south of Tehran, Iran, Feb. 3, 2015. File photo: Ebrahim Noroozi / AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iran’s Kurdish province of Kermanshah has one of the highest rates of drug addiction in the country, according to government officials.
“90,000 people are addicted to a type of drug, requiring a comprehensive plan to tackle this challenge,” Ali Shamshiri, head of the Drug Control Organization of Kermanshah Province, told IRNA news agency on Thursday.
“In Kermanshah Province, about 200 places related to producing and distributing addictive drugs have been closed during the last year,” Shamshiri added.
In 2017 Iran’s Drug Control Organization (DGO) estimated around 2.8 million people out of a population of 80 million regularly use drugs, up from 1.3 million in 2011.
Iran’s neighbor Afghanistan has long been the world’s leading producer of opium, responsible for roughly 90 percent of global output. Iran’s southeastern most province, Sistan and Baluchestan, has a long land border with Afghanistan, making it a key gateway for drug smuggling.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports up to 60 percent of Afghanistan’s opium is smuggled across Iran’s border.
Iranian border provinces like Khuzestan, Kermanshah, and Sistan and Baluchestan, have much higher rates of drug use largely because they are transit sites for smugglers.
Kermanshah is among nine Iranian provinces with particularly high rates of drug addiction.
“Economically Kermanshah has not developed and it does not have major factories, so unemployment and poverty is high. Moreover, the Iranian officials have not provided enough law enforcement forces and medical centers to tackle drug problem in Kermanshah,” Naser Simayi, a psychologist and drugs expert from Koya University, told Rudaw.
According to Omid Qaderi, the head of Kermanshah Healthcare Center, 75 percent of addicts consume opium while 12 percent use marijuana.
“Now there are 19 drug treatment centers [in Kermanshah]. But, based on the province’s two million-strong population, we need 30 centers,” Qaderi said.
“There is only one center for the mandatory quitting of drugs in Kermanshah with 150 beds, but they want to open another center of 400 beds with all the equipment,” he added.
Kermanshah Province has tried several initiatives to tackle drug addiction. People who overcome their addiction can receive loans from government banks and help finding work. The healthcare center of the province will provide a loan of $5,869 to businesses that hire a recovering addict.
The province has also tried to promote sports centers to dissuade young people from taking up drugs.
Addiction is associated with an increase in other social and economic problems. The UNODC reported that out of 20,000 Iranians with HIV/AIDS, more than 60 percent were infected by sharing contaminated needles.
Medical costs and mitigating the effects of unemployment have placed further strain on an already struggling economy.