By Akhtar M. Nikzad-Although, no survey has been carried out about the exact number of female drug addicts in Afghanistan, but the primary studies and assessments of the Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MoCN) show the number of drug addicts has been on the rise gradually, since 2009.
Spokesman for MoCN, Mohammad Hanif Danishyar, told Afghanistan Times that the number of drug addicts in Afghanistan was about 1.5 million in 2010 but it increased to 3.5 million in 2015.
He said that due to various reasons, the numbers of drug abusers are increasing especially women and children as they are more vulnerable.
According to him, in the survey of 2015 it was proved that there are 3.5 million addicts in Afghanistan. Some are exposed or passive addicts.
The spokesman furthered that drug addicts are divided into three categories. In the first category, 1.4 million people are active addicts; in the second category, one million people are temporary addicts who use drugs irregularly or occasionally; and as per the third category, more than one million people are passive addicts.
He pointed out that those people who are indirect (passive) addicts were influenced by the regular addicts. The passive addicts want to remain exposed to the smoke of drugs.
The spokesman acknowledged that there are about 80,000 up to 90,000 female addicts and around 1.1 million child addicts in the country. The children are in the category of passive addicts.
“Married addicted men encourage wife at home to use drugs. In houses where male member is an addict, women and children inhale the harmful substances and become passive addicts. In some cases we found out that generally some women, who worked in the poppy fields in insecure parts the country, produced opium. They got use to drug and became addicts,” he elaborated.
Danishyar told that totally there are around 108 rehabilitation centers in the country which provide treatment facilities to the addicts. Out of 108 centers, eight centers are only for female addicts. These centers rehabilitate 2,500 female addicts every year.
According to him, majority of drug users are young people (under age of 39) and the number of addict has increased from 1.5 million in 2009 to 3.5 million in 2015.
Opium is produced and smuggled from various parts of Afghanistan where government has no or weak writ. In areas where poppy is cultivated, Taliban and other insurgent groups had established stronghold. Insurgent groups are caching opiates by supporting farmers in the insecure area.
The spokesman said that as result of the government efforts, this year the cultivation and production of opium has decreased by 48 percent as compared to the previous year.
He said that last year Afghanistan produced around 6,000 tons of narcotics but this year it was around 3,300 ton. The figures show 48 percent decrease.
Despite decrease in opium production, still hundreds of addicts including children and women live in various parts of the capital city, Kabul. They create different social challenges.
One of the populated areas is Pul-e Sukhta in the sixth police jurisdiction of Kabul City. Tens of addicts use drugs. Smugglers easily distribute drugs to the addicts under the bridge, according to local people. Due to easy accessibility to the drugs, daily many healthy young people become addicts.
Ali Hussain, a resident of Pul-e Sukhta, said that some females during the night go under the bridge and use drugs. “I have seen youth girls here who use drugs. Some of them lost their mind. They remain here with other male addicts,” he said.
Shaima, a 24-year old, is an addict who has used drugs for the last six years. She said that she has been in several rehabilitation centers, but the treatment was not helpful.
She said that she started taking drugs with her husband after being deported from Iran. She said that at least ten female drug addicts live under the Pul-e Sukhta Bridge. “I have a seven years old son. I am concerned about his future.”
In the last two months, Ministry of Public Health in cooperation with other relevant organizations transferred at least 700 addicts from Pul-e Sukhta Bridge and other areas to the newly established rehabilitation treatment center in the capital city.
Danishyar said that MoCN has planned to establish a standard rehabilitation center at the Camp Phoenix. All female addicts walking on the streets would be transferred to the safe and secure center.
Shamsullah, a psychologist, said that addiction has different factors and people who get use to the drugs come under various social pressures and depressions.
He termed poverty, joblessness, economic hardships and inappropriate environment as the main factors of drug addiction among youth. He said that habitually female get use to drugs when their husbands use narcotics.
He stressed that if the government does not take practical steps for creating employment opportunities in the country, the number of addicts would exceed.