Iranian society

The Islamic Republic has a drug problem

Headlines about Iran usually focus on its nuclear deal with the global powers, its controversial missile programme, not to mention international sanctions. The deep-rooted domestic challenges that the country faces get less attention. One of them is a drastic rise in narcotics consumption in the past ten years. By Mitra Shahrani

Local reports and statistics indicate that Iran’s government has failed to adequately address what has become a looming crisis. The UN Office on Drugs and Crimes considers the situation to be one of the most serious internationally. Opiates are the main cause of concern.

Iran′s drugs crisis is complex. In June 2017, Iran’s Drug Control Headquarters reported that, according to a representative survey, the number of drug addicts was between 2.8 million to 3 million people of the ages 15 to 65 years. Observers believe the real number to be even higher, but the official data indicated that narcotics abuse had doubled in six years. In August 2018, a member of the Iranian parliament’s Social Affairs Committee revealed that some addicts in Iran are as young as 11.

Drug abuse spreading among women

Indeed, one trend is that drug abuse is spreading among women and children. Sometimes, addicted women even give birth to addicted infants. The new-borns tend to live very short lives or struggle with the difficult withdrawal process.

Typically, older addicted children are from poor families who live in impoverished areas on the outskirts of metropolitan cities. They are constantly exposed to narcotics and some of them are used by their families to sell drugs or procure them for their parents.

Poverty probably pushes many people towards narcotics abuse, but not all addicts are poor. The escalation of Iran’s drug problem seems like a national epidemic, affecting people of different backgrounds. To some extent, the middle classes may use drugs for recreational purposes, but hopelessness seems to be an important issue.

Drug addict and her child in Tehran (photo: Tasnim)
Shocking development: one particularly worrying trend is the growth of drug abuse among women and children. Sometimes, addicted women even give birth to addicted infants. The new-borns tend to live very short lives or struggle with the difficult withdrawal process

Despair is widespread and believed to be growing because people lack economic and political prospects. Economic hardship resulting from decades of mismanagement and corruption, as well as international sanctions, is having a strong psychological impact on society.

Proximity to Afghanistan

Another important factor is Iran’s geographical location. The country is close to the hub of the world’s opium production. Afghanistan produces about 90 % of the world’s poppy harvest and opiates are smuggled from there to all other countries. Iran shares 921 kilometres of porous borders with Afghanistan. Transit routes run through Iran and various narcotics are easily available.

More on this topic
In submitting this comment, the reader accepts the following terms and conditions: reserves the right to edit or delete comments or not to publish them. This applies in particular to defamatory, racist, personal, or irrelevant comments or comments written in dialects or languages other than English. Comments submitted by readers using fantasy names or intentionally false names will not be published. will not provide information on the telephone. Readers' comments can be found by Google and other search engines.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.

Comments for this article: The Islamic Republic has a drug problem

Economic and social factors, yes. I wonder why after 17 years the most "civilised", richest and powerful state on earth - the U.S. - has been unable to defeat Taliban and eradicate drugs in Afghanistan

Nadeem16.12.2018 | 13:02 Uhr