Gov’t Seeks Community-Based Approach to Fight Addiction

Family-based prevention programs for the general population can positively change specific aspects of parenting behavior that can reduce later risks of drug abuse
Gov’t Seeks Community-Based Approach to Fight AddictionGov’t Seeks Community-Based Approach to Fight Addiction

More than 50% of prisoners, 60% of thefts, and 50% of divorces in the country are due to drugs and the problem of substance abuse, said Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli.

“Addiction also contributes to many other crimes, and containing drug abuse will significantly bring down the crime rate in Iran,” he said at the National Conference for Discourse on Protection and Community-Based Drug Control, held December 3-4 in Tehran. 

The conference was the first of its kind with particular focus on participation and action by non-governmental organizations, ISNA reported.

According to the Iran Drug Control Headquarters (IDCH), the event organizer, the confab sought to encourage greater social role of NGOs in controlling and reducing demand for addictive and psychoactive drugs; mobilizing the community and groups such as NGOs, experts, specialists, and social activists in a number of areas concerning drug control and demand reduction; and preparing the ground for discourse and nurturing the collective psyche to help control and slash demand for addictive and psychoactive drugs.

The minister, who doubles as the IDCH head, pointed to the directive by the Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei to put addiction among the top five social maladies to deal with under the next five-year economic, social and cultural development plan (2016-2021).

Rahmani-Fazli had earlier this year called for making the fight against narcotics a societal move, underlining that every individual is cultured and educated enough to participate in preventing and combating drug abuse, rather than just leaving it to the anti-drug police.

  Empowering NGOs

“Every citizen is entitled to their rights to have access to clean air and water as well as economic, social, and political stability, without which there will be despair, depression, and violence,” which could exacerbate addiction in society, said Elham Aminzadeh, special assistant to President Hassan Rouhani for citizenship rights.

“Without NGOs, the government cannot shoulder the task of fighting the drug problem by itself,” she stressed.

The community-based approach is garnering global attention. The strategy has been encouraged by the Iranian government and paved the way for the participation of various social groups as well as people from different walks of life in the campaign against narcotic drugs.

The large number of NGOs accredited by the Interior Ministry is a testimony to the government’s support for public participation, Rahmani-Fazli noted. There is a 22% rise in establishment of new NGOs in Iran. Over 80% of harm reduction and treatment programs are undertaken by non-governmental organizations and of the 2,271 NGOs active in the field, 37% are involved in prevention programs, 56% in treatment, and 7% in harm reduction.

“A happy society is a prerequisite to prevention of social ills,” Aminzadeh further said calling for more government support for NGOs which could be instrumental in involving people and enhancing their social responsibility.

The current NGOs Executive Bylaw ratified by the Cabinet must undergo revision to become law which would clarify their jurisdiction and extent of financial support to such organizations, she said, and called on the NGOs to cooperate with the Interior Ministry to work out a bill and present it to the parliament for ratification.

“The Citizenship Rights Charter to be unveiled by the president in mid-December could be a step in that direction,” she said, Borna News Agency reported.

  High Relapse Rates 

Rahmani-Fazli singled out lack of social acceptance and support as the main reason for the high rates of relapse following rehabilitation.

“In the best case scenario, only a maximum of 20% of those treated for de-addiction in Iran stay sober, despite treatment as per international standards.” 

“That impacts social and economic stability of the nation, which is why the president has time and again stressed prevention and protection as the first and foremost principle in the fight against drugs.”

Noting that the government has introduced incentives to business owners to recruit recovering addicts, the minister called on families to cooperate and help eliminate the social ill.

“Educating families can go a long way in prevention.”

Family-based prevention programs for the general population can positively change specific aspects of parenting behavior that can reduce later risks of drug abuse.

  Geographical Situation

Iran which is located on the main route of transit for large quantities of narcotics from neighboring Afghanistan bound for Europe and the US, launches large-scale anti-narcotics operations every year, and accounts for 40% of global seizures.

An estimated 3,800 Iranian policemen have been killed and 12,000 injured in the fight against drug traffickers in the past two decades. 

Currently, 5,000 tons of illegal drugs are produced globally, more than 4,000 tons of which enter the regional and international markets. Over the 2013-2015 period, the government managed to seize more than 20,000 tons of narcotics. In 2015 alone, over 600 tons of various types of drugs were seized.

“It is my belief that the same quantity is consumed annually in the country,” Rahmani-Fazli had said at a function earlier this year.

Iran has called for a more effective global strategy to check drug trafficking via the Balkan route, including active cooperation among countries in preventing money laundering, identifying the drug cartels, unearthing assets of the drug mafia and sharing information on their illegal activities.

The conference, attended by high-ranking state officials, NGOs, social activists, specialists, and well-known local figures, discussed scientific principles of the fight against narcotics and the role of NGOS, social preconditions to elicit public participation, social status and role of NGOs in shaping the anti-drug policies, empowering NGOs, role of guilds and industries in protection and prevention, as well as that of athletes, artists, and other role models in fighting drug abuse, and support for recovering addicts and their families.

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