Women Opium Addicts in Afghanistan: The Hidden Numbers

For a number of months now, news channels throughout the world have been reporting on the drugs problems running rampant in Afghanistan. We know clearly that this is a problem among men, both young and old. Now, a new Independent report highlights the hidden addicts – mothers.

Opium is readily available in Afghanistan and too often, individuals try and treat themselves when pain issues arise. Aside from legitimate use, however, a number of Afghanistan citizens pursue the use of opium drugs to escape life, or simply because they have nothing else to do.

It is estimated that one million Afghan adults are addicted to illegal drugs. This is the statistic available from the latest United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime survey. The statistic suggests that 8 percent of the adult population is addicted, which is twice the global average.

For mothers in Afghanistan, too many are dependent on outlawed and highly addictive painkillers because they cannot access medicines or medical help. Opium paste is often a target. While the substance is banned, it can be purchased under the counter at small shops in nearly every bazaar. The paste is used to treat pain such as that incurred during childbirth. Too quickly, addiction sets in.

Currently, Afghanistan is the largest opium producer in the world, producing 90 percent of the world’s supply of opium and heroin. Southern Afghanistan accounts for 87 percent of production in the country, with the bulk coming from Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

Throughout the country, opium use has increased by 53 percent since 2005 and the proportion of heroin users has increased by 140 percent due to the cheap availability of the drugs. The true number of addicted women is likely to be much larger.