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Number of drug addicts rises to 3m in Afghanistan: Survey

Out of three million drug users, 1.4 million are addicted to drug and 1.6 million others are using or linked with drug, claims Public Health Minister

By Farhad Naibkhel-KABUL: A survey conducted by the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) with oversight by the institutional Review Board of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Tuesday revealed that number of the illicit drug users rose up to three million across the country.

Briefing media about the survey report which has not been provided to the news reporters, Minister of Public Health, Ferozudin Feroz, said that out of three million drug users, 1.4 million are addicted to drugs and 1.6 million others are using and linked with drugs.

The children are not using drugs but they are passive users because their parents are addicted, the minister said, adding that the survey was conducted in two phases: urban study was conducted in 2012 and rural study completed this year, which gives a nationwide profile of drug use in Afghanistan.

He said that it is the first largest-scale survey based on 100 percent toxicological screening. Results of the combined urban and rural survey reveal a national drug use rate of 11 percent—one of the highest rate in the world. According to the survey in rural areas drugs usage rate is three times higher than urban areas. Thirteen percent of the Afghan rural population use drugs, where in Urban this rate is five percent. Opium is the most prevalent class of drugs used in Afghanistan, national opiates use rate is seven percent in rural areas.

The minister said that there is a treatment facility having 2,500 beds, where the ministry could rehabilitate 35,000 addicted people, annually. “Even if we double the number of beds, we can rehabilitate 70,000 addicts, which is not enough. Besides treatment, comprehensive preventable programs and strategies shall be initiated in the country to cope with the challenges,” he said.

Urging the international community for support in the anti-narcotics drives, he said that poppy cultivation and drugs smuggling is not only a national phenomenon, but an international issue.

Minister of Counter Narcotics, Salamat Azimi, said that decades of wars encouraged poppy cultivation and number of drug users increased in the country.

She said the ministry in collaboration with the relevant organizations held efforts to fight against drug trafficking and poppy cultivation in the country in the past years, adding that the ministry alone could not resolve the problems.

“Poppy cultivation and growing number of drug addicts are major problems and has different dimension. Therefore, all the relevant organizations shall support the Ministry of Counter Narcotics to cope with the problem,” she insisted.

Alternative programs for farmers and awareness campaigns through mosque and other public institutions are also necessary to keep people away from the harms of drugs, she added.

According to surveys, there were 920,000 drug addicts in 2005, one million in 2009 and 1.3-1.6 million in 2012 across the country. The drastic surge in number of the addicts is questionable and raised many eyebrows.

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