Gradual Growth of Female Drug Addiction

The stigma attached to drug use makes it more difficult for those  in need of treatment to seek help.The stigma attached to drug use makes it more difficult for those  in need of treatment to seek help.

The number of women addicts has doubled since the last decade according to reports by several domestic news agencies.

However, Abbas Deilamizadeh, a social pathologist, believes the figure couldn’t have doubled only in six years “as the phenomenon grows gradually,” the government-owned Persian language newspaper ‘Iran’ reported.

He pointed to the significant difference between the percentage of women addicts announced in 2005 (5%) and 2011 (10%), attributing it to the method used to measure prevalence of drug abuse among women.

Explaining, he said in the ‘marked ‘ or ‘capture, recapture’ method, a sample of drug addicts are marked, before they are released from rehab clinics.

A major application for these methods is in epidemiology. Typical applications include estimating the number of people needing particular services (i.e. services for children with learning disabilities, services for medically frail elderly living in the community), or with particular conditions(i.e. illegal drug addicts, people infected with HIV).

“In this method, researchers collected data on drug users who had attended rehab clinics or those who had been admitted to hospitals for infectious diseases because of their drug use during a determined period of time. During the period all addicts were marked before they left the clinics,” Deilamizadeh said.

The addicts admitted to rehab clinics and hospitals should show their ID cards and their e-records are developed in a system named IDATIS (except those who are homeless).

“Later, when the second data collection was undertaken, the number of marked addicts within the sample which also included unmarked individuals was counted. That is, the total number of addicts was estimated based on the ratio of marked to unmarked addicts in the second study,” he explained.  

In other words, the data is analyzed mathematically to estimate the number of addicts. The method is most useful when it is not practical to count all the individuals in the target population.

Stating that the method is only effective when more than 50% of a population can be marked, he said, “At that time men were more likely to seek rehab services than women, and the number of rehabilitation clinics for female addicts wasn’t enough.”

Therefore the method was unable to provide accurate statistics on the number of female addicts, he said.

Provision of more rehabilitation programs to female addicts increased the number of female addicts seeking rehab and treatment over time, he said adding that, “this explains why statistically the figure grew rapidly.”

It is also unfortunate that the stigma attached to drug use and public intolerance makes it more difficult for those who need addiction treatment to get it, in particular women, he added.

 Homelessness and Drug Abuse

Researchers in addiction have found that the time interval between the first drug experience and becoming a homeless has decreased from the previous 26 years in the year 1981 to the current 9 years. The time interval is an indicator of ‘addiction severity’, Deilamizadeh said.

Substance abuse is an important predictor of homelessness. Addiction disrupts relationships within family and causes people to lose their jobs. For people who are already struggling to pay their bills, the onset of addiction may also lead them to lose their housing.   

There are around 20,000 homeless people in Tehran, among whom 3,000 are women, according to the Tehran Municipality (TM). Many of the women have migrated to the overcrowded capital from other cities.

The State Welfare Organization has established ‘Mehr’ centers for providing shelter to female drug addicts who have children, in collaboration with a well-known NGO, the Toloo-bi-Neshanha Society (literally, dawn of the unknown) in Harandi neighborhood in south Tehran, which has a high number of homeless junkies.

Drug abuse is one of the main social maladies in Iran and according to official reports there are more than 2 million addicts in the country.

Iran lies directly on the path of the world’s largest flow of heroin. Finished heroin, partially refined heroin in the form of morphine or raw opium leaves neighboring Afghanistan and enters Iran – an estimated 140 tons annually. Only about 23% of it is seized each year or 32 tons. Drug traffickers are said to be pocketing $450-600 million every year from the illicit trade.


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