New Initiative to Curb Drug Addiction

New Initiative to Curb Drug Addiction New Initiative to Curb Drug Addiction

A new joint committee with representatives from ministries and medical universities has been formed for the first time to help stop drug abuse among school students.

“Families needn’t be concerned about the costs of treatment as rehabilitation services will be free of charge with the Iran Health Insurance Organization (IHIO) providing insurance coverage,” said Mohammad Reza Azarnia, secretary of the Council for Fighting Drug Abuse affiliated to the Tehran Municipality.

The joint committee comprises representatives of the State Welfare Organization (SWO), Education Ministry, universities of medical sciences affiliated to the Health Ministry and the council, he said on the sidelines of a meeting on the eve of the International Anti-Drug Day observed (June 26), the Persian language newspaper ‘Hamshahri’ reported.

“Our current focus is on treatment and rehabilitation of students who are already addicted to illegal substances. Implementation of preventive education programs in schools will be the committee’s next steps.”

A special ward at Imam Hussein Hospital affiliated to the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran has been allocated for treatment of addicted students.

The ward would facilitate as a nodal center and enable better control of drug addicts and their treatment, Azarnia said.

The treatment procedures have been designed in a way that they don’t hinder the students’ education prospects. All addicts don’t need inpatient care and those who need to be hospitalized can make up for non-attendance of classes at a later date.

The Education Ministry has been directed not to expel student addicts, but only send them to the hospital for treatment, he said.  “However, school managements can seek transfer of a student addict to another school if they think the student is a bad apple, and the new school would be expected to exercise more control on the deviant student’s behavior.”  

  Drug Abuse Increasing Prevalence

Unfortunately, during the last decade, substance abuse prevalence has increased significantly among adolescents.

A recent survey indicates that people in the 17-25 age groups make up the largest group of drug abusers nationwide, Azarnia said.

Pointing to the high rate of substance abuse among students, he said, “Currently, drug abuse prevalence rate has reached 1.2% in schools in Tehran Province, which means from among each 100 students, at least one is a regular drug abuser.

About 130,000 students across the country have used illegal substances at least once during their lifetime and many are regular drug abusers.  

According to figures released by the Iran Drug Control Headquarter (IDCH), about 60% university students who are addicted to illicit drugs started using drugs from school age.  In the year 2011, about 1.1% of school-age students reported they had used ecstasy pills. Also 0.4% of them reported crystal amphetamine consumption at least once (most of them were between 16 and 17 years).

Many of the crystal meth abusers said they started using meth to stay awake and alert during exams, says Alireza Jazini, head of IDCH.