11 Mar Pakistan’s Drug Proliferation Increasing Alarming
Drug use around the world is a problem to varying degrees. In Pakistan, where the conservative and religious culture looks down on drug abuse, the problem is only growing. Drug trafficking in the country, as well as drug abuse and addiction, are considered to originate in Afghanistan, a country that grows much of the world’s opium poppies for heroin production. As the numbers of drug users and addicts swell, Pakistan faces the challenges of prevention, treatment and all of the other troubles of a growing drug culture.
The Facts About Drugs in Pakistan
According to the statistics reported by government officials in Pakistan, the number of drug users in the country has risen from about 50,000 in 1980 to over 8 million in 2011. The United Nations has produced a different number, finding that nearly 6.5 adults in the country abused drugs in 2013. Whichever number is more accurate, the problem is clear: a lot of people are abusing drugs.
The drug of choice in Pakistan is cannabis, usually in the form of hashish. Opium and heroin are the next most commonly abused. Most heroin abuse occurs in the regions of the country closest to Afghanistan. Another alarming statistic found by the U.N. is that the abuse of prescription drugs by women is growing quickly. Women report that they are easily able to get sedatives and narcotics from pharmacies. On the horizon is the abuse of methamphetamines. The numbers of people using this type of drug are still small, but growing.
Officials in Pakistan are particularly concerned about children and teens and their access to drugs. There are many children in the country living on the streets and the government sees them as particularly vulnerable to the lure of drugs. Officials estimate that 2 million young people in Pakistan are in such a vulnerable position. To combat the abuse of drugs in this demographic, the government hopes to set up preventive campaigns, but efforts are slow.
Causes and Consequences
In the 1980s, Afghanistan officially sanctioned drug trafficking as a way to raise money to fight the Soviets. Pakistan inevitably became part of the route through which drugs, largely heroin, were transported out to the rest of the world. That pattern continues and today one-third of all drugs from Afghanistan go through Baluchistan in the western part of Pakistan. The total amounts to $30 billion worth of drugs moved through the country every year.
Afghanistan’s drug business has resulted in the development of drug gangs in Pakistan’s city slums, gang violence and a growing substance abuse and addiction problem. Nearly 600,000 people in Pakistan become addicts every year. The use of heroin is also causing an increase in blood-borne diseases spread through shared needles, including HIV. Other consequences come from the flow of drugs as well. Drug trafficking puts tension on the relationship between Pakistan and other countries including Afghanistan, India and the U.S.
While the government in Pakistan has tried to put measures in place to increase public awareness of the dangers of drugs, to halt trafficking and catch criminals and to treat addicts, the efforts meet plenty of resistance. Provincial police forces place drug trafficking low on their list of priorities, while many officials and politicians are complicit in trafficking. Pakistan needs a cultural shift in order to reverse the dangerous trend of drug abuse and addiction seen over the last few decades.
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