Drug Use in Iran: A Grim Reality
UN statistics estimate that roughly 2.2% of Iranian adults are hooked on drugs, which means that Iran holds the current world record for the highest rate of addiction.
And some experts say that that number might be much higher – as much as 5% of the total Iranian population. This would mean that, of roughly 80 million Iranians, 4 million are hooked on drugs.
Iranian addicts’ drugs of choice: crack, heroin, and “shishe,” an Iranian version of crystal meth. These substances are cheap and easy to make at home or in a thrown together lab.
When Traveling Abroad, Know Your Sh*t
If you break local laws in Iran, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not when traveling to points abroad and especially to places that are way stricter than the U.S. when it comes to socially accepted behavior and norms.
And beware: some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested, however this isn’t necessarily the case in Iran.
There are severe penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Iran and, once convicted, offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Iran is a Muslim country and, as such, alcohol is totally forbidden. Drinking and possession of alcoholic beverages and drugs is severely punished.
In fact, Article 179 of the Islamic penal code allows for the death penalty for drinking alcoholic beverages after three convictions, after the suspect has received punishment of eighty lashes in the previous two convictions.
60% of prisoners in Iran are incarcerated for drug offences. Iran executes many people each year on drug-related charges.
Iran, Drugs, and the Death Penalty
Capital crimes for which the death penalty is enforced include the cultivation of coca, cannabis, or poppies for the purpose of making narcotics after three previous convictions; the import, export, production, sale or distribution of more than 5 kilograms of bhang, Indian hemp juice, grass, opium and opium juice or residue; and the import, export, distribution, production, possession or transport of more than 30 grams of heroin, morphine, cocaine and other chemical derivatives of morphine or cocaine.
It is clear that Iran is one of the world’s most active countries when it comes to the death penalty and that drug offenders represent a significant amount of people who are executed. Some sources estimate that Iran has executed 10,000 drug traffickers since the revolution of 1979.
Addiction Treatment in Iran
Surprisingly, Iran is quite lenient with its drug addicts – not so much with drug traffickers.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is a pioneer country in the fields of opium substitution therapies and prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS,” the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports on its website. Also noteworthy is that 88% of such programs are funded by the private sector and by non-governmental organizations.
Despite the diminished funding, Iran spends quite heavily when it comes to drug education and treatment. According to Foreign Affairs, by 2002, 50% of Iran’s drug control budget was spent on public health campaigns. Iran has also established numerous methadone clinics and needle exchanges and spends as much on treatment and prevention as it does on prohibition.
Abbas Deilamizade, director of Rebirth Society, a non-governmental drug treatment program in Iran states, “Our concern is how sanctions and the [worsening] economy can make addicts change their consumption patterns from low-risk behaviors like smoking opium to high-risk behaviors such as injection of heroin or use of shisheh.”
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.