June 22nd, 2010
03:15 PM ET

Report: Afghan drug addiction twice global average

Nearly 1 million Afghans between the ages of 15 and 64 are drug addicts, according to a new survey.

That would be about 8 percent of the population, or twice the global average, according to a report issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

“Much has been said and written about Afghanistan as a leading producer of drugs, causing health havoc in the world. It is time to recognize that the same tragedy is taking place in Afghanistan,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UNODC.

Drug addiction appears to be on the rise as well. The previous survey, conducted in 2005, found that 150,000 Afghans were regular opium users and 50,000 were regular heroin users. Those numbers increased to 230,000 opium users and 120,000 heroin users. 

"We are facing a national tragedy," said Ibrahim Azghar, Afghanistan's deputy minister of counternarcotics.

Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, heroin and hashish, according to the UNODC.

Cannabis, being three times cheaper to cultivate than opium, also is a popular crop.

But among Afghans, opium use seems to be the most prevalent; about 60 percent of interviewed drug users reported using opium during their lifetime. Some have even given opium to their children.

"This risks condemning the next generation of Afghans to a life of addiction," Costa said.

There are 40 drug treatment centers in Afghanistan, but “treatment remains inaccessible to one-third of the country,” said Robert Watkins, the U.N. secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan. There are centers in 21 of the country’s 34 provinces.

Of the drug users interviewed in the survey, 11 percent had received some kind of treatment. More than 90 percent said they needed treatment.

"Three decades of war-related trauma, unlimited availability of cheap narcotics and limited access to treatment have created a major, and growing, addiction problem in Afghanistan," Costa said.

Some observers might say the answer is counternarcotics - getting rid of the poppy fields not only would help the Afghan people, it would cripple the Taliban by cutting off its funding. The illicit drug trade is a major source of revenue for the Taliban, which “taxes” Afghan farmers and traffickers to fund the insurgency.

A report by the U.S. Senate, however, found that eliminating drug crops has a negative effect: It leaves farmers bitter and angry because they no longer have a source of income for their family.

CNN’s Chris Lawrence spent time with U.S. Marines in April, just a few hundred meters away from prospering poppy fields in Helmand province. The Marines took a hands-off approach to the drugs, as they did not want to alienate the local village and push it even further toward the Taliban.

“This is the only thing they know to produce quick money for themselves and for their families,” 2nd Lt. Cody Hardenburgh said.

View the full survey (PDF) 

Related: Addicted from birth

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Filed under: Drug trade
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Linda

    I thought these people were PURE and that is why they are fighting us[besides over oil] because we are all Infidels! Seems they are a nasty lot themselves!!!

    June 27, 2010 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Onesmallvoice

      They seem to be a lot like our Tea Partiers,don't they,Linda?

      June 28, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. RSAT4

    What do you expect them to do if guys hailing with bullets everyday. i think its batter to hi

    June 25, 2010 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      They are to smart to use it!!! They rather sell if to the rest of the Would.... They make more money that way!!!

      June 25, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Terry

    Actually if we could get the Taliban to smoke more cannabis and expose them to the flowerchild culture, we might actually achieve peace there.

    June 24, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Panabiker

    It's better that they are high on the drugs than blowing up things.

    June 24, 2010 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      After we leave will be the only way to see what they will do after we leave!!! Hopefully they will do the right thing... Only GOD knows the answer to that questions...

      June 24, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John

    Sad just proves how impossible the war is over there, dealing with a society as corrupt and in bed with the drug trade as they are

    June 24, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      We have a better chance to win both wars this way than we had before!!!

      June 24, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ConcernedAmerican

    We should promote pharmaceutical companies to start buying this stuff. It could lower the cost of prescribed drugs not only in the U.S., but all over the world as well. Think of the numbers of people that could be helped there as well as world wide. Factories could be set up to process these in Afghanistan creating jobs. The cannabis could be converted to a large number of products such as paint, clothing, shampoo, etc. There's actually an unlimitless number of products that can be derivied from it and was done so in the U.S. for a number of years prior to the lobbying of Dow Chemical that made it illegal in the U.S. in the late 1930's.

    June 23, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Orwell

    You think they have Prozac, Vicodin, Oxycotin, Ambien, and other narcotic prescribed pills in Afghanistan. Nope, but America makes it a priority to prescribe these ridiculous "anxiety" drugs to a majority of the population. Why dont we all go on a soma vacation?? ohhhh Brave New World!!

    June 23, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  8. Orwell

    Oh, sweet propaganda in the media. If we were not in a war with the Afghans we would not be hearing about their high opium and heroin use. The media is trying to convince us that we are at war with a bunch of strung out junkies who plan destroying the US at all costs. I'am over it. There are women and children over there too. There are normal people, not every human in the Afghan region is a homicidal drug addict. They should do articles on everyday life for the hard working human beings that live there and how the war effects THEIR lives. stop living in 1984

    June 23, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      We are having the same war in Afghanistan as we are fighting in Mexico... The difference we have Our troops in Afghanistan!!! We are trying to close our boarders to Mexico...

      June 25, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Iraq Paramedic

    DUH !!!! What the heck does anybody expect. Oxycotin, Vicodin & Morphine, to name just a few, are legal drugs that are made from the poppy plants that sell for a lot more than illegal heroin so why are the drug lords not selling to the pharmicutical companies? Why are we not setting up fatories to make legal meds & employ these people? Why does Obama not salute the troops or place his hand over his heart as taps are played or when the national anthem is played & why won't he recite the pledge of allegence? Why are Muslims exempt from the new health care law of the USA? Why is congress, the president & their families exempt from that law the rest of us have to follow? Believe me people it is all connected.
    May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 23, 2010 at 4:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. Smith in Oregon

    Under the watchful eyes of the CIA, during the horrific Bush-Cheney Republican administration, all 37 provinces of Afghanistan had Opium Fields planted to the maximum. With the Karzai Clan at the helm, Heroin production skyrocketed making Afghanistan the world's foremost Heroin producing country in the entire world, making Billions of untraceable dollars for the Karzai Clan, Billions for the CIA and Billions for the Taliban fighters. The only losers are the millions of men, women and children around the world hopelessly addicted to Heroin thanks to America's occupation of Afghanistan and installing a major Opium exporter's family in power. In retrospect, you could say the tidal wave of Heroin in Afghanistan, Russia and across the entire Middle East extending into America's grade schools is the CIA's answer to America's War on Drugs.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. Al

    " that eliminating drug crops has a negative effect: It leaves farmers bitter and angry because they no longer have a source of income for their family."
    Yeah, right. We will allow them to crop the freaking stuff 'cos it helps them feed their families. And when we kill all the Talibs they start cropping corn, right? THERE IS NO LEGAL BUSINESS which would beat incomes from drugs cropping. IT IS ILLIGAL, it means if you crop it you sell it to gangsters, who, usually, keep 90% of revenue for themselves. If we want to leaf Afganistan we need to teach them earning the income, not being a criminal

    June 22, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      If you really believe what you just said??? I have a Bridge I can sell you in San Franisco!!!

      June 25, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. David Sims

    @Onesmallvoice, coz you have no feeling 😉
    stop acting like fools!

    June 22, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Onesmallvoice

    Why does this story not surprise me???

    June 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jaybob

      it shouldn't man... it really shouldn't.

      June 22, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.

        Hamas disallows mail, Red Cross visits
        UPI Wed, 23 Jun 2010 16:57 PM PDT
        JERUSALEM, June 23 (UPI) - Hamas says it will not allow the Red Cross to visit or allow any mail to or from captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit because of security concerns. Hamas – Gilad Shalit – Israel Defense Forces – Israel – International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement

        June 24, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • curto

      If you included weed and people were actually honest to the lame people that are on an ego trip I think you would find a hell of a lot more people then 1 million smoke weed in Canada and or America... Even proportionally. Weed is addicting if you like it, LOL.

      June 24, 2010 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
      • curto

        Your in denial if you don't think more then 1 million people smoke weed at least in Canada.. America is ghetto, the cops are not my friends that for sure.

        June 24, 2010 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
      • curto

        way more then a million buy i mean proportionally.. America I'm sure smokes a lot of weed too the Mexicans are always bringing some bad stuff and ppl buy that, but im sure cops or someone grows the good stuff.

        June 24, 2010 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
    • curto

      As if America doesn't have cocaine and Metth and stuff..

      June 24, 2010 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
      • curto

        Treat someone how you would want to be treated that's the problem with America, no one does it.

        June 24, 2010 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      that is what Israel has to work with... The problem is the People are for Hamas and against Israel!!!

      June 25, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |