Int’l Day Against Drug abuse: Drug addiction among KP youth rising

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Peshawar: Drug abuse among teenagers in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, is on the rise, according to the city’s leading organization for rehabilitation of drug addicts.

“Lack of proper treatment facilities for drug addicts in the province means lives of about 1.6 million drug addicts are at risk,” said Azazudin, manager monitoring and evaluation at the Dost Welfare Foundation.

The only well-equipped center providing rehabilitation services to  drug addicts in KP, the Dost Welfare Foundation has treated 26000-27000 drug addicts since its beginning in 1992. It has a rehabilitation center with a capacity of up to 350 patients. The adult drug addicts take 45 to 75 days while children takes up to three months to clean up.

Dost foundation currently has 50 teenagers and 200 adult drug addicts under treatment, of which 150 among adults and 15 among children have HIV/Aids.

“Most of the patients are HIV positive,” Azazudin told News Lens. “‘HIV/ Aids patients include Afghan refugees, migrants and deported citizen from other countries.”

The number of drug addicts in KP province is high due to the 2430 km long porous border the province shares with Afghanistan. Drugs are cheap and easily available here. According to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report published last year there are 6.7 million people who use drugs in Pakistan,of which 4.25 million lives are depended on drugs.

The report estimated that more than eight m Pakistanis aged between 15 to 64 are regular drug abusers and almost five million are addicted to high-grade hashish commonly known as charas.  According to the report, Pakistan consumed 44 tons of heroin annually. About 110 tons of heroin and morphine is smuggled through Pakistan to international markets from Afghanistan. Four million users were listed as cannabis addicts – the most common drug used in Pakistan.

The report said  a majority of the drug users are aged between 25 to 39 years. 40 per cent of the eight million used drugs due to poverty and stress and the rest used it to seek pleasure.

The report  revealed that 74 per cent of the world’s opium is produced in Afghanistan, and 40 per cent of this is supplied to the rest of the world via Pakistan, 34 per cent via Iran and the rest via Russia and other Central Asian countries. Experts believe it is one of the main reasons that KP, a border province like Balochistan which also has a high drug prevalence and addiction rate, accounts for a high number of drug abusers.

There are only 16 rehabilitation centers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for more than 1.6 drug addicts, some of them working in collaboration with different national and international non-government organizations.

Drugs as varied as hashish, morphine, heroin, glue etc. are readily and cheaply all over Peshawar city, especially the karkhano market situated near the tribal district of Khyber Agency that borders Afghanistan. Peshawar’s central bus station at the Haji Camp neighbourhood is considered a hub of teenage drug abusers.

Addressing to the launch ceremony of the UNODC report last year, Shahram Taraki, the KPK Minister for Health, had termed the report a “wake up call” for authorities to eradicate the menace of drug abuse.“The increasing use of drugs, especially among the youth, is alarming,” Taraki had said.

Muhammad Ali Babakhel, a top police official in KP, termed the high prevalence rate of drug abuse among the youth a factor of the market forces of demand and supply. “I think it is primarily an issue of demand and supply [of drugs], lack of parental and teacher control, access to internet and depression in society,” said Babakhel.

He said though the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) was doing all to control drug smuggling and availability, it still needed increased public cooperation with  police to combat the menace of drug addiction. Moreover, he said, education and preventive measures were the first step to checking drug abuse.

“I think the first approach towards controlling drug abuse should be emphasis on prevention and education,” Babakhel told News Lens.

The KP government has pledged to support the Dost Foundation to combat drug abuse. It plans to initiate a drug rehabilitation programme  in collaboration with the Dost foundation and the Social Welfare Department of KP.

Dost Foundation used to have 16 regional centers in the past to search out drug addicts in parts of the province for possible rehabilitation. These regional centers have been closed with the Foundation training to the government-run Basic health units (BHUs) to identify and help drug addicts.

Under the collaboration between the government and Dost Foundation, said Azazudin, the BHUs in different districts would forward drug abuse cases to the Foundation for treatment.

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