Iran is a major transit country and a major consumer of opiates and hashish, says a newly released report by the U.S. State Department. The 2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report says that the largest single share of opiates leaving Afghanistan, perhaps as much as 60 percent, passes through Iran to consumers in Iran itself, Russia and Europe.
The report also says that there are at least 3 million opiate abusers in Iran, and probably more. "Continuing large volumes of opiate seizure in Iran," says the report, "indicated Iran is experiencing an epidemic of drug abuse, particularly among its youth."
According to the State Department report, Iran has the highest share of population abusing opiates in the world. Citing a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Survey from 1999, the report said that 2.8 percent of the Iranian population between the ages of 15 and 64 are estimated to abuse opiates. But, the State Department report noted, many Iranian practitioners, especially in the treatment community, say the share of Iranian opiate abusers in Iran's population is even higher.
The State Department report says that the government of Iran has taken strong measures against illicit narcotics, particularly interdiction of drugs moving into and through its territory. Iran claims that 50,000 law enforcement personnel are regularly deployed along its border with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and interdiction efforts by the police and Revolutionary Guards have resulted in numerous drug seizures.
In addition, the Iranian government has recently re-emphasized treatment as a response to drug abuse, as opposed to incarceration. It is using more of its drug abuse budget on maintenance programs using synthetic pharmaceuticals and other efforts to cure narcotics abusers and to reintegrate addicts into Iranian society.
The U.S. government continues to encourage regional cooperation against narcotics trafficking. The State Department report notes that Iran and the United States have expressed similar viewpoints on illicit drugs and the regional impact of the Afghan drug trade. In the context of multinational settings, the U.S. and Iran have worked productively together on the drug trafficking issue. It is in the interests of both countries, as well as the region as a whole, that such efforts against the scourge of drug trafficking and abuse continue.