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Opium use booms in Afghanistan for women

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MateenK View Drop Down
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    Posted: 19-Jun-2017 at 4:08pm
Opium use booms in Afghanistan, creating a ‘silent tsunami’ of addicted women. 

Opium use booms in Afghanistan, creating a ‘silent tsunami’ of addicted women

KABUL — One recent morning, three figures in white lab coats descended cautiously into a pitch-black netherworld beneath a crumbling bridge in the Afghan capital. They picked their way amid garbage and sprawled limbs, passing hundreds of huddled men whose gaunt, wary faces were briefly illuminated by the flare of matches and drug pipes.

The doctors were headed to a lone tent pitched nearby on the dry riverbed, where they knew a female addict named Marzia had been sleeping on her own. They approached quietly, saying they had come to help. From within came shouts of, “Go away, leave me alone!” Suddenly the young woman flung open the tent flap, cursing and hurling debris. Stumbling along the riverbed, she darted under the bridge and vanished into the protective company of fellow lost souls.

Drug addiction in Afghanistan, once mostly limited to men who spent years as laborers or war refugees in Iran, has exploded into a nationwide scourge that affects millions of people, including a growing number of women and children. 

Over the past five years, programs of crop eradication and substitution have been largely abandoned as foreign funding has ended and insurgent attacks have increased. As a result, tens of  thousands of farmers have returned to the lucrative business of growing opium poppies. Last year, 420,000 acres were devoted to poppies, and opium production rose 43 percent over 2015, to 4,800 tons, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Most Afghan opium is sold for export to the heroin trade in Europe and Russia, with an estimated revenue value of nearly $1 billion. But the boom has also led to a sharp drop in domestic drug prices, while widespread unemployment and anxiety created by years of war have fueled demand for the cheap escape of drugs. 

 In 2010, U.N. experts estimated there were about 1 million regular drug users in Afghanistan, mostly using opium as “a kind of self-medication against the hardships of life.” They warned that addiction was “following the same hyperbolic growth of opium production.” By 2015, they reported, the number of addicts in the country had soared to 3 million — an astonishing 12 percent of the populace — and more of them were using heroin.

Edited by MateenK - 19-Jun-2017 at 4:14pm
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