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Drugs in Afghanistan

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Drugs in Afghanistan

In the photos, one man looks like a business man, and another is an artsy type.  Yet another could be a member of the clergy. But these are men from Afghanistan, not the U.S.,as you might think from my descriptions, and all are addicts. They are evidence that we truly live in a global world where no one is immune from becoming an addict.Afgan shopkeeper.jpg

Most of the men depicted wear the type of headgear that immediately identifies them as Central Asian, and the subtitle of The New York Times article I’m reading leaves no doubt. The title is “Trapped in a Narcotic Haze”, and the subtitle is “With Abundant Opium and Few Treatment Programs, Afghanistan’s Addicts, and Health Risks, Multiply.” (As I mentioned previously, the NYT changes article titles online after articles are published, so the next headline was “Few Treatment Options for Afghans as Drug Use Rises.”)

The men in the article – from 200 to 300, depending on the day — live under a bridge that healthcare workers who visit call “a circle of hell.” Many of them have H.I.V. from sharing needles. And although treatment is not always easy to come by for those without money in the U.S., it’s doubly hard in Afghanistan. The government has a few detox centers and is building more, but there’s no support post-detox and there’s a 92% relapse rate, the author of the article found. Plus, the World Health Organization may support opiate substitution therapy, but the Afgani government does not, believing that it’s simply substituting one addictive substance for another.

Since Afghanistan is the leading producer of the opium poppy, opium is pure and cheap in that country, the writer notes, and addiction is increasing. From 12 to 41 percent of Afghani police recruits smoke pot, and the incidence of H.I.V is 7 percent, double what it was in 2008.afgan younger man.jpg

Part of the problem is that men who travel to Iran for work from other countries become addicted and are then sent back home or travel home of their own free will. That’s sad, because Iran is not opposed to methadone therapy so it sounds like they’d do better if they stayed.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced at the beginning of February that U.S. troops will be pulling out of Afghanistan starting in 2013– earlier than the original date of 2014. Besides thinking of our troops serving there for so many years, I thought of the country’s drug problem on hearing this. 


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