Sunday, August 23, 2009

WWB: drug addiction

WHAT WAR BRINGS: drug addiction

There are multiple causes of the growth and development of a drug addiction population in a war zone. The break down in security and the easier availability of drugs is one major factor. The pain that comes from living in an occupied country – psychological and emotional pain, plus the lack of health care, food and even adequate warmth in winter, also contribute greatly to a drug addiction problem.

And it is often a problem for an entire family, even the children.

Earlier this month, jimstaro wrote a diary on drug addiction in Afghanistan. He covered the story of one Afghan family, and the many causes of their drug addiction. Well worth reading:

Drug Addiction in Afghanistan

In a report from IRIN (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks) from this past July, several carpet weavers in Afghanistan talk about their opium habit, and how it allows them to work longer, ease pains, keep their children quiet, and hold off hunger pains.

“Opium eases my pain, keeps my children quiet”

Opium addiction among rural women has been exacerbated by a lack of access to health services either due to cultural restrictions or dearth of health centres, say health workers. “Women use opium not for fun or luxury but as the only available painkiller to them,” said Mahbooba Ebadi, an obstetrician in Balkh.

It is unclear how many Afghan women use opium, but a 2005 addiction survey by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) put the number of adult female drug users in the country at 120,000. At least 900,000 Afghans were estimated to be drug addicts out of a population of 25 million in 2005.

A New Zealand news agency reported on how opium was used as cash in one Afghan valley, until the government began aggressively enforcing a ban on opium production. They are no longer allowed to plant their only cash crop, and the entire community is sinking into poverty.

Afghan opium trade raising generation of addicts

Opium is one of the biggest problems facing this troubled country, because it is deeply woven into the fabric of daily life as well as into the economics of insurgency. Afghanistan supplies 93 percent of the world's opium, and it is one of the main sources of funding for the growing Taliban movement.

Yet the government ban on opium is working at best unevenly. In areas of the country under Taliban control, opium production is going strong. In government-held areas such as Shahran, it has gone down drastically, but at the cost of the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people. Their anger is imperiling government support in one of the few areas of the country that has resisted the Taliban's advance.

……Two years ago, opium, the raw ingredient used to make heroin, grew on nearly half a million acres in Afghanistan. The harvest was worth about $4 billion, or equal to nearly half the country's GDP in 2007. As much as a tenth - almost half a billion dollars - went to local strongmen, including the Taliban, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

[Note: the Taliban have other sources of funding than the opium (like forcing people to pay protection money) which are bringing in more money than the opium. Corruption is rampant in Afghanistan. And when the Taliban were in power in the 1990's, opium production was stopped.]

A story by the AP from earlier this month talks about how the addiction is passed down from one generation to the next. But if a picture can speak a thousand words, then the picture on this post explains it all.

Photo: In this July 13, 2009 photo, Sarab village resident and opium addict Islam Beg, center, offers his opium pipe to his grandson after having an early morning smoke in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan. In dozens of mountain hamlets in this remote corner of Afghanistan, opium addiction has become so entrenched that whole families — from toddlers to old men — are addicts. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Opium addictions grip families in Afghanistan’s remote villages

In dozens of mountain hamlets in this remote corner of Afghanistan, opium addiction has become so entrenched that whole families - from toddlers to old men - are addicts. Cut off from the rest of the world by glacial streams, the addiction moves from house to house, infecting entire communities. From just one family years ago, at least half the people of Sarab, population 1,850, are now addicts.

Opium is the only medical treatment they have, and there are no available treatment programs for addicts. Entire families, even babies, end up addicts. Food and hygiene are seen as secondary, the important thing is getting the opium. This, of course, creates a huge amount of problems.

Meanwhile… Over in Iraq

There is not as much information out there on drug addiction in Iraq, but it has been mentioned in prior years. In a report from 2005, it was noted that Iraq has a growing drug addiction problem. As in Afghanistan, the security situation (that is, the lack of security) means that drug can flow in, often from Afghanistan via Iran. Criminal activity flourishes.

Hospitals wage a different war: against addiction

"The pattern is similar to what we have seen in other post-conflict situations," Hamid Ghodse, president of the International Narcotics Control Board, said during the United Nations agency's spring meeting in Vienna. "Weakening of border controls and security infrastructure make countries into convenient logistic and transit points," he said.

Here is what this report in 2005 had to say about the increases in drug addition:

Patients, most ages 20 and 30, are addicted to everything from alcohol to Valium and cough syrup, says Adel Ja'afer Abdul Sahib, the hospital's deputy director. Addiction in Baghdad is rising steadily, he says. In 2002, before the war, the hospital treated 370 patients in its outpatient facility. An additional 144 were admitted to the hospital for addiction. Last year, Sahib says, outpatients rose to 407 and hospital admissions rose to 250, he says.

A more recent report from December 2008 talks about how Iraq’s children have become drug addicts and dealers.

Iraq’s children drug addicts, dealers

Ahmed, 12, is one of them. "Smoking marijuana makes me happy even being orphan," the child, who has lost his parents to the bloody violence, told "I like to feel the sensation that, for a period of time, can help me forget all the problems I have," said Ahmed, not his real name. "I do it as much as I want, until I feel safe again just like I used to feel before my parents were killed."

An Iraqi psychologist claims in that article that there were no drug addicted children prior to the US invasion. I don’t know if that is true, but there sure were less Iraqi orphans prior to the US invasion. (By the way, a child who loses their father is often called an orphan even if the mother is still alive. I think this is due to the fact that the father is almost always the bread-winner of the family.) Another thing that is certainly true: the number of drug addicts in Iraq who are children has been increasing every year.

UNICEF reports have warned that drug addiction is becoming more of a phenomenon amongst Iraqi children. There has been a 30 percent increase in addiction among children since 2005, according to specialists. Since last year alone, the number of child addicts jumped by nearly 10 percent, they estimate.

There has been some reports (from unverified sources) that prescription drug abuse and addiction is on the rise in Iraq, including among the police and Iraqi military.

It appears that the drug addiction problem is worse in Afghanistan, because of the easy supply of opium. It appears that prescription drug abuse is worse in Iraq, because those drugs are more available in Iraq. I don’t have any information on Pakistan, but logically, drug addiction is growing there also.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: drug addiction.

Please note –

Since this series of WHAT WAR BRINGS is about civilians, I did not mention the growing drug addiction in US troops who were stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also a very serious problem.

And I would predict that Afghanistan war veterans will have higher levels of drug addiction, simply due to the availability of opium in that country.

1 comment:

Edward said...

Wasting that money on drugs and alcohol isn’t worth it. A sober college removes those kind of temptations so you can focus on what’s important, you’re studies.