In the past few years, statistics have shown a massive drug addiction rise in Pakistan. According to a 2013 report by the UN, around 6.7 million people in Pakistan are drug addicts. We see hardly any preventive measures, despite the shocking numbers. Let us take a look at some of the trending factors that lead to drug addiction in Pakistan.
Cannabis is one of the most commonly used and sold drugs in Pakistan. Around 4 million people are cannabis users, which makes it a vast majority. The overuse and abuse of cannabis can have adverse affects on one’s mental and physical capabilities. Furthermore, it tends to cloud one’s judgement, making them lose any ambition or will power. On the other hand, heroin and opium are used by the remaining few, with 860,000 chronic heroin users. Both these opiates cause short-term euphoric feelings, along with pain relief, relaxation and drowsiness. Side effects such as grogginess, slower heart rate, and headaches are fairly common with both. However, prolonged use may result in organ disorders, mental health issues and various cancers of the brain and body. “Pakistan’s illegal drug trade is believed to generate $2 billion a year [making] Pakistan the most heroin-addicted country, per capita, in the world,” writes David Browne in The Telegraph.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is considered to home the highest number of drug users in Pakistan. About 11 percent of the entire KPK population use drugs. Various geographical, social and political factors are at play here, converting a once tourist hub into a drug possessed region. Firstly, it shares the border with Afghan provinces that have extensive opium-poppy fields. Secondly, the adjoining Khyber tribal areas are full of heroin-processing labs.
Furthermore, due to the taliban influence and mujahideen insurgency across the Afghanistan Pakistan border, the city is steeped in lawlessness and corruption. Narcotics and drugs are just one of the many things on the long list of crimes that are easily neglected by the government. According to David Browne, “Pakistan aims to be drug-free by 2020 under its 2010-2014 Drug Abuse Control Master Plan. Yet in 2011 and 2012 the body set up to coordinate this goal did not even bother to meet.”
Because alcohol is not allowed in Islam, many addicts find ways of justifying drugs, believing that it is a religiously and socially acceptable act. As a matter of fact, Islam forbids not just alcohol, but also intoxicants, which go side by side with gambling. “Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist?” [Quran: 5:91]. However, because the destruction that comes about when a poor man or woman use up their daily savings on drugs does not cause any major destruction other than to themselves, it is deemed a less important issue to worry about than others.
Moving away from the poverty stricken lower class to the privileged upper class, drug addiction is prevalent in spades even here. One can not tell whether it is surprising or not that college and university students use freely and openly everyday. But the peer pressure is not just friends copying friends. In fact, the security guards, janitorial staff, and even faculty members use drugs, inside and outside school premises. Instead of disciplining students, they become allies with them in the act. Drug usage has become such a second nature to so many folks in Pakistan, that even an educational institution does not see it as a weakness in the individual, in the institution or in the system.
According to a satirical comment by David Browne on the government’s efforts involving drugs, ” Pakistan aims to be drug-free by 2020 under its 2010-2014 Drug Abuse Control Master Plan. Yet in 2011 and 2012 the body set up to coordinate this goal did not even bother to meet.” However, he goes on to mention the Dost Welfare Foundation. This is a charity based organization, founded and established in 1922 by Dr Parveen Azam Khan. It is funded by UNODC, the Canadian International Development and Britain’s Department for International Development. It is one of the few rehabilitation centers that has seen more success stories than most other organizations. Furthermore, the techniques it uses for therapy are humane and ethically sound, which is another challenge in itself for Pakistan. Therefore, the message of hope is strong and positive.
All in all, the drug epidemic is a real and major problem that we need to overcome. The hope to end it lies in taking it seriously and dealing with it in a proper manner.