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Afghanistan, the drug addiction capital (after Taliban)

Now we have a big big problem in Afghanistan.

Unemployment - which currently stands at nearly 40%

One gram costs about $6 (£3.91), and it's available in every corner of the city.

Women and children account for 40% of the country's drug addicts.

Afghanistan, the drug addiction capital

By Tahir Qadiry
BBC News, Kabul

Afghanistan produces 90% of all opiate drugs in the world, but until recently was not a major consumer. Now, out of a population of 35 million, more than a million are addicted to drugs - proportionately the highest figure in the world.

Right in the heart of Kabul, on the stony banks of the Kabul River, drug addicts gather to buy and use heroin. It's a place of misery and degradation.

In broad daylight about a dozen men and teenage boys sit huddled in pairs smoking and injecting. Among them are some educated people - a doctor, an engineer and an interpreter.

Tariq Sulaiman, from Najat, a local addiction charity, comes here regularly to try to persuade addicts to get treatment.

"We are already losing our children to suicide attacks, rocket and bomb attacks," he says. "But now addiction is another sort of terrorism which is killing our countrymen."

At the age of 18, Jawid, originally from Badakhshan in the north of Afghanistan, has already been hooked on heroin for 10 years. His uncle introduced him to drugs when he was a small child, to make him work harder on the land.

"I hate my life. Everyone hates me. I should have been at school at this age, but I am a junkie," he says.

His father is dead. His disabled mother worries about her son constantly. All she wants from life is for him to get clean, but she begs on the streets to pay for his daily dose to prevent him stealing.

"I always tell Jawid if I die, he will end up sleeping under the bridge with other addicts," she says.

This is the fate of the most hardcore addicts, whose fires can be seen at night. Police regularly beat and disperse them, and sometimes throw them in the river.

The reasons why so many Afghans are turning to drugs are complex. It's clear that decades of violence have played a part.

Many of those who fled during the violence of the last 30 years took refuge in Iran and Pakistan, where addiction rates have long been high. They're now returning and bringing their drug problems with them, officials say.

Unemployment - which currently stands at nearly 40% - is also taking its toll.

"If I had a job, I wouldn't be here," says Farooq, one of the addicts by the river, who has a degree in medicine and once worked as a hospital manager.

He says he takes drugs "to be calm and to relax" - but that he would prefer to be dead than a junkie, as he now is.

Another factor is the increasing availability of heroin, which over the last decade has begun to be refined from raw opium in Afghanistan itself.

To buy heroin in Kabul is "as easy as buying yourself something to eat", addicts say. One gram costs about $6 (£3.91), and it's available in every corner of the city.

"Traditionally, what we tend to argue is that the demand causes the supply," says Jean-Luc Lemahieu, regional representative of the UN drugs agency UNODC - one of the few organisations working on drug eradication in Afghanistan.

"What we have forgotten, though, is that… the sheer appearance of that product on the market causes a local demand."

When foreign troops arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, one of their goals was to stem drug production. Instead, they have concentrated on fighting insurgents, and have often been accused of turning a blind eye to the poppy fields.

Opium has been around in Afghanistan for centuries, used as a kind of medical cure-all.

In a hospital in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, I met an Afghan woman, Fatima, who had taken opium while suffering from bleeding after childbirth, because it was cheaper than going to a doctor.

Then she gave it to her baby to stop her coughing during breastfeeding - and now both are addicted.

Women and children account for 40% of the country's drug addicts.

While Fatima and her baby are getting treatment at a public hospital, few Afghan addicts get any help at all.

All told, the health ministry runs 95 addiction treatment centres around the country, with enough bed space for 2,305 people.

Its entire budget for treating the country's one million drug addicts is just $2.2m (£1.4m) per annum - a little over $2 per addict, per year.

Jawid alone consumes heroin worth about three times that every day.

While I was in Kabul, he got a place at the centre run by Tariq Sulaiman's Najat charity. The treatment consists of going "cold turkey" for 72 hours.

The participants began by getting their heads shaved. After one day, Jawid was in pain, but he could deal with it. Then, on the second night, he started shouting and crying and banging his head against a wall.

When I met him on the street, he denied that he was back on heroin, but his glazed eyes and rambling speech told a different story.

As he disappeared into the snowy twilight, his chances of kicking his habit seemed bleak.

And as Afghanistan faces so many problems on so many fronts, its chances of winning the wider war on drugs seem equally uncertain.
Human being is very complex thing.

On one side Taliban were barbarians and blood thirsty creatures, but at the same time they eradicated this drug problem too with their limited resources.

But now Afghanistan is free, has help of free World, but still could not win a fight against the Drugs.

I see only this that Islamists (Taliban supporters) are doing a lot of propaganda regarding this fact in Pakistan and other countries, and innocent Muslim Youth becoming prey of their propaganda. They brain wash them by saying that only Islam (Talibani version of Islam) could make them and their society free of evils like drugs etc.)

And liberals in Pakistan have no answer to their propaganda.

I see secularism is dying slowing in Pakistan, and Islamic Extremism taking place at rapid pace.

Not good signs. I am very much worried.
Afghan authorities must do everything in their power to stop this mess from growing.
It will undoubtedly reach the point where the value of producing the drugs in feeding their families is far outweighed by the burden of a society with chronic drug addiction.
Subsistence farmers in other parts of south asia produce food crops to feed themselves, why can't this model be copied in Afghanistan? Perhaps it is warlords and politicians themselves hindering effective action and taking a cut of the profit. It's horrible to think such people could exist in power.

Not to mention, an unhealthy Afghanistan will negatively influence all its neighbors. Not only will there be more refugees but society will surely become even more dependent on drug smuggling.
I seem to recall back in 2003, Bush invaded Afghanistan.
It wasn't chasing no Bin Laden either.
He invaded it right around planting time for the poppy fields.
In 2004, heroin made a comeback in America, around late spring.
The drug game is the only flow of fake currency America has left.
Not surprised at all by this.
This is what the war on terror was, controlling their land.

Since then we know Afghanistan has enough elements needed for computer technology to last the world about 100 years. They want them people GONE.

The US is marching around the word conquering.
I guess all the illigal doing are present in Afghanistan. lol
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