Schools, Families Come Together to Combat Drug Abuse

Schools, Families Come Together to Combat Drug AbuseSchools, Families Come Together to Combat Drug Abuse

T he United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Iran in collaboration with the Drug Control Headquarters (DCH), ministry of education and the State Welfare Organization (SWO) has initiated implementation of the Families and Schools Together (FAST) project, which aims to advocate a scientific and evidence-based drug prevention program, particularly for the families.

The project is being implemented across the country in the frame work of the UNODC Country Program in collaboration with the UNODC Regional Program for Afghanistan and neighboring countries, IRNA reported.

“Young people are more susceptible to drug abuse, as they are in a period of life which their peer group and role models, who may be involved in the use of psychotropic substances, can influence their values and behaviors” says Leik Boonwaat, UNODC representative in Iran.

As people under the age of 30 make more than 60% of the overall population of Iran, serious concerns have been expressed by both national authorities and the UN about the growing phenomenon of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) abuse in the country. ATS are posing a serious threat to the health, social and economic fabric of families, communities and nations.

“Evidence-based drug prevention programs are key components of long-term successful drug control strategies. Such programs are cost-effective as they can save up high amount of costs resulting from drug-related crime, unemployment and health problems,” Boonwaat added.

In close cooperation with the DCH, the UNODC has developed and piloted expert guidelines and training packages for specific use in communities, educational and prison settings, targeting high risk groups.

The projects address all forms of drug abuse and provide services to different social groups such as families, educational settings, high risk groups, prisons and the workplace; with special emphasis on ‘at risk’ youth exposed to drugs.

The UNODC in Iran was established in 1999 with the purpose of minimizing drug-related crimes through implementing a multi-sectoral program which included drug supply reduction, drug demand reduction and legal assistance.

 Huge Task

Iran is a major route of drug trafficking because of its long borders with Afghanistan - the biggest illicit opium producer. Hundreds of police personnel and border guards get killed annually, clear evidence that Iran is a victim of increasingly violent criminal networks.

A host of programs have been tried to address the issue; from closing the borders to launching advertisement campaigns to the arrest and stern punishment of traffickers and drug dealers- everything has proved inadequate. The country even enacted tougher drug laws in 2011 as part of a crackdown that led to the confiscation of more than three tons of methamphetamine and the execution of dozens of drug dealers.

Globally, criminals, especially drug traffickers, may have laundered around $1.6 trillion, or 2.7 per cent of global GDP, in 2009, according to a report by the UNODC in October 2011. This figure is consistent with the 2 to 5 per cent range previously established by the International Monetary Fund to estimate the scale of money-laundering.

 Grim Shift

With a paradigm shift in the field of substance abuse in recent years, particularly the increase in the abuse of synthetic drugs like methamphetamine and heroin, fighting  drugs and treating addicts has become all the more difficult.  Methamphetamine appeals to drug abusers because it increases the body’s metabolism and produces euphoria, increases alertness, and gives the abuser a sense of increased energy. High doses or chronic use of methamphetamine, however, increases nervousness, irritability, and paranoia. Adverse consequences of meth abuse include the risk of stroke, heart failure, and prolonged psychosis. Overcoming such addiction could take up to 5 years of rehab therapy.

‘’There are 345,000 meth users in the country which comprise 26% of all the drug abuse,’’ says Babak Dinparast, a deputy at the DCH, quoted by Mehr News Agency. He adds that while 126 tons of methamphetamine is consumed every year, only 5 to 8 tons of them are seized. Figures show 58% of drug users are covered by treatment services but “only 17% have access to the services.”  

 Border Control

The interior minister says the reason for easy flow of drugs across the border is pretty clear.’’ We have long borders - 2000 km - with nations that have no control over their borders, something acknowledged by these very same countries,’’ Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli says.

The UNDOC reported that Afghan farmers grew an “unprecedented” 209,000 hectares of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous high of 193,000 hectares in 2007, said John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. With a crop yield of some 5,500 tons, Afghanistan is accounted for 80 percent of global opium production. “Tackling drug-use in the country is one thing, shielding the long borders from drug threat is quite another.”

 Made in China

Dr. Asghar Mohajeri a sociologist believes that the transit hub for the opium cultivated in Afghanistan is no longer just Iran but says a shift has occurred towards China.

‘’It’s no longer the case when all the opium crosses into Iran; studies shows that a significant portion of the illicit opium crosses into China where they are turned into synthetic drugs and smuggled back into Iran and other countries,’’ says Mohajeri. He says one reason for the low price of drugs is “their being made in China.”

Dr. Abbas Deylami Zadeh, another sociologist, urges the launch of positive campaigns like “encouraging people to quit, providing free treatment and free insurance or other incentives.’’ Those who claim that drug addiction can be eradicated quickly are joking; “instead of talking big, we should act wisely and focus on treatment,’’ he adds.