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    Monday, 12 March 2018

    Afghanistan has one million, Pakistan 2 million female drug addicts: health officials

    Public health ministry officials have raised concerns about the alarmingly high number of female drug addicts in Afghanistan, TOLO News reported.


    According to officials in Kabul, at least one million women and 100,000 children are drug addicts in the war-torn country.
    Last year, officials stated that three million people were addicts, but the new figure, of one million female addicts, could mean the total number is much higher than initially thought
    Shahpor Yusuf, head of the anti-drug department at the public health ministry, at an event to mark International Women’s Day, said the number of child addicts was also extremely high – at 100,000. The children, officials said, were all below the age of 10.
    Sunday’s ceremony was held at a drug rehabilitation center in Kabul.
    “There are between 900,000 and million women and around 100,000 children who have turned to drugs,” Yusuf said.
    A number of women at the ceremony said they turned to drugs as their husbands were addicts.
    “I took on drug as my husband was using at home,” Naznin, a woman said.
    “Bringing us here (for treatment) will have not results. When we leave here, again we will turn to drug as long as there are smugglers (and dealers). They should be stopped. It is the reality,” Marwa Musavi, another woman said.
    Currently, there are at least 20 drug rehabilitation centers across the country that treat women and children. Officials have said however that there are not enough centers to treat women and children.
    Last year, statistics released highlighted that Afghanistan has over three million addicts, but that rehabilitation centers have the capacity to help only a small percentage of the total number.
    However, the public health ministry’s disclosure indicates that the total number of addicts could be a lot higher than thought if women drug addicts alone total about one million.
    In Pakistan ,About eight million people in Pakistan are drug addicts and the number is increasing with every passing day.
    This was echoed at a seminar titled “war on drugs: awareness session” organised by the University of Agriculture Faisalabad on Tuesday.
    Dr Asif Bajwa, a psychiatrist, said either curiosity or peer pressure moved the youth to use drugs. “Currently 8m people are addicts in Pakistan and this strength is increasingly.”
    He lamented that usage of sheesha was becoming common in youth and some of the sheesha sellers were using heroin in it. “Drug addiction is like terrorism which is responsible for taking lives of the innocent people.”
    He suggested effective legislation on sale of drugs.
    UAF acting Vice Chancellor Dr Iqrar Ahmed said it was need of the hour to create awareness among masses about the menace of addiction which was playing havoc with the lives of people. He called for promoting healthy activities and sports in youth. He said the university had taken concrete steps against drug addiction on the campus.
    He said vigilance committees under the director (students affairs) had been constituted to nab people involved in drug addiction in the university. Dr Ather Javed said awareness about the effects of drug addiction was a prerequisite to end the menace.
    Dr Binish Asad and other also spoke on the occasion.
    The Drug Use in Pakistan 2013 Survey Report, a collaborative research by the Narcotics Control Division, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and the UN, states that there are 7.6 million drug addicts in the country, out of which 78 percent are men and 22 percent women.
    Cannabis is the most commonly used drug in Pakistan, with nearly four million people listed as users. Opiates, namely opium and heroin, are used by almost one percent of the total drug users, with 860,000 chronic heroin users. The survey showed that an estimated three million drug dependents are in dire need of professional treatment. However, the available rehabilitation structure cannot help more than a fraction of those in need of help.
    According to a conservative estimate, the rate of increase in the number of drug addicts is 40,000 a year. The most disturbing fact revealed by the survey is the growing number of heroin addicts in the country with the average age of users falling below 24. The highest levels of use of heroin were found in areas bordering principal poppy-cultivating areas in the neighbouring Afghanistan.
    A recent survey of 10 colleges and two universities of Lahore brought to light some eye-opening facts related to drug abuse among students. The majority of students surveyed — 57 percent — reported using one or more drugs. The survey, according to experts, was the first ever attempt aimed at providing baseline information on the prevalence and patterns of drug use among the population, especially the youth. According to Cesar Guedes, Representative of UNODC, the National Drug Use Survey 2013 provided comprehensive data of drug use and drug related HIV in Pakistan. The data provided in the report formed the baseline for future planning and designing of drug prevention and treatment programmes in Pakistan.
    According to the report, men predominantly use cannabis and opiates, whereas women rely on tranquillisers, sedatives and prescribed amphetamines. Alarmingly, the report also showed high prevalence (1.6 million) of non-medical use of prescription drugs nationwide, particularly amongst women. The report found that almost all surveyed women said that over time they resorted to misusing opioid-based painkillers (morphine etc.), and, to a lesser extent, tranquilisers and sedatives, which are readily available in pharmacies.
    Most of the drugs come from Afghanistan, the country responsible for at least 75 percent of the world’s heroin production and supply. UNODC calculates that more than 800,000 Pakistanis aged between 15-64 use heroin regularly. It is also estimated that up to 44 tons of processed heroin are annually consumed annually in Pakistan, a rate of use that is twice or thrice that of America. A further 110 tons of heroin and morphine from Afghanistan are trafficked through Pakistan to international markets. According to a conservative estimate, Pakistan’s illegal drug trade is believed to generate up to two billion dollars a year.
    The number of drug users is particularly high in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, where close to 11 percent of the population is hooked on drugs. In 2013, the number of drug users in Balochistan was 280,000. The number of injection drug users has sharply increased in recent years. In 2007, Pakistan had an estimated 90,000 injecting drug users, but the number had risen to around 500,000 by 2014.
    This increase has also been accompanied by an increase in HIV positivity. According to latest research, in 2005 about 11 percent of Pakistani drug users were HIV positive. That number had risen to 40 percent in 2011.
    The survey revealed that the majority of drug addicts usually start with soft drugs like chhaliya, gutka and pan, and then move to hard drugs like heroin, opium and cocaine, etc. The purchase of drugs or alcohol by young people is usually through dealers or ‘agents’, who are just a phone call away. Their numbers are easily exchanged from one person to another. The contact numbers are also widely distributed throughout hostels, hotels and other places that are generally hidden from the prying eyes of law enforcement agencies.
    The phenomenon of growing drug abuse cannot be viewed in isolation from the prevailing socio-political and economic realities. Young people are increasingly aware of and resent the existing setup where corruption, cronyism and financial power are the order of the day. The young do not want to be a part of this oppressive system, and lacking a viable alternative they find escape in drugs or terrorism. According to social scientists, political and social upheavals of the last six decades have played a crucial role in shaping the overall psyche and behaviour of the youth: increasing economic inequality, unemployment, political uncertainty, terrorist attacks, suicide bombings and endless sectarian and ethnic clashes.
    Society’s response to drug abuse and its victims has been poor and inadequate. According to a survey, treatment and specialist care are in short supply. Treatment is available to less than 30,000 drug users. The survey showed that 64 percent of the respondents reported difficulties in getting treatment. For an overwhelming majority (80 percent), treatment is unaffordable. Lack of in-patient facilities in government hospitals was cited as the major deterrent for treatment by 23 percent of the respondents. 44 percent received treatment for a drug problem at some stage in their lives, and 96 percent have been treated for heroin addiction.
    According to experts, the easiest and most effective solution would be to send addicts to a rehabilitation centre. A humanistic form of treatment has been found to be most effective in dealing with drug addicts. But, first of all, awareness and prevention must start at home, with parents. Parents should be vigilant and keep an eye on the company their children keep and their activities. Experts recommend that the devastating effects of drugs should be discussed even at school level, and awareness raising campaigns should be launched, especially through the electronic media. Secure in the knowledge that they cannot be touched or called to account, drug cartels ply their trade with impunity. The Anti-Narcotics Force is a federal executive arm of government tasked with combating drug smuggling and use within Pakistan, but its scorecard is, at best, mixed. The need is for government agencies to come down hard on drug cartels, which is the only way to reduce the incidence of drug abuse in the country.
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