Iran’s Drug Control Organisation has said that there are now 2.8 million people in the strictly conservative country “regularly consuming drugs,” according to reports carried by state media.
The figure is up from 1.3 million users in the Islamic Republic’s 80 million strong population six years ago, spokesperson Parviz Afshar said, with opium fuelling 67 per cent of consumption.
The UN said last year that Iran already has one of the worst addiction crises in the world, affecting people from all walks of society. Economic stagnation and high unemployment - the lingering result of years of US nuclear sanctions - are widely thought to be to blame.
Marijuana use now made up 12 per cent, but methamphetamines use, popular among younger Iranians and known as 'glass', had dropped to 8 per cent, Mr Afshar said, quoting figures from the health and social welfare departments.
The actual number of addicts and regular users could be higher, Saeed Safatian, the head of a working group on drugs in the Expediency Council, Saeed Safatian, told the official IRNA news agency, because many will have not admitted to drug use for fear of social opprobrium.
A total of 90 per cent of the world’s opium is produced in neighbouring Afghanistan from poppy resin which is refined to make heroin. Despite the authorities' best efforts to clamp down on trafficking over the 600-mile-long border, Iran often serves as a transit point for export to the rest of the world, the AFP reports.
After the US invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban in 2001, opium production has soared, funding the extremists’ insurgency.
Since the majority of US and Nato ally troops withdrew from the country in 2014, production has increased even further: the UN says up to 6,000 tonnes of the drug was exported in 2016 thanks to good weather and the intensifying strength of the Taliban, which now controls some 40 per cent of the country.
The global narcotics market is “thriving”, the UN’s crime and drugs agency said last week, with opiates causing tens of thousands of avoidable deaths a year.
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