Pakistan is currently grappling with a rising and formidable challenge of drug addiction, Afghan Diaspora Network reported. The prevalence of cannabis is considered Pakistan's most widely consumed illicit drug, which is closely trailed by the rising use of opiates (including both opium and heroin).
The problem is further increased by the alarming increase in intravenous drug administration, coupled with the dangerous practice of sharing needles, which causes a conducive environment for the rapid spread of blood-borne diseases, further increasing the already distressing public health crisis, Kadeem Baloch, a freelance journalist based in Pakistan, wrote in the report.
7.6 million addicts
According to a United Nations report released in October 2022, 7.6 million people, with males comprising 78 per cent and females making up the remaining 22 per cent were addicted to drugs. Pakistan is witnessing an increase in the number of addicts each year, with an annual rise of approximately 40,000, according to the Afghan Diaspora Network report. The alarming rise earmarks Pakistan as one of the most severely ravaged nations affected by drug addiction globally.
Drug abuse infiltrated into education system
The pervasive circulation of drugs in educational institutions in Sindh acts as the final brick in its wall of destruction, the report said. Although the local government has been making statements aimed at eliminating the possession, sale, propagation, and consumption of drugs from Karachi, however, the problem has continuously increased to a point where drug abuse has infiltrated the education system in schools and colleges.
Furthermore, the problem of drug addiction among school children in Karachi is increasing immensely. The menace of drug addiction is pervasive throughout the length and breadth of Pakistan and it poses a formidable challenge to the country's social fabric, according to Afghan Diaspora Network reported.
5000 afflicted children in Peshawar
A non-profit organization has revealed about an increasing drug addiction crisis among children in Peshawar. From 2010 to 2018, an alarming juvenile drug dependency was seen in Peshawar, with a number surpassing 5000 afflicted children and it has only increased ever since. Meanwhile, the rate of addiction amongst women has increased tenfold in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
460 drug addicts died on streets last year in Punjab provinces
The number of intravenous drug abusers among all provinces of Punjab includes a high ratio of polydrug abuse amongst addicts in Lahore using and mix of opium and heroin. According to the latest report, at least 460 drug addicts died on the sidewalks, streets, and parks during the past year in Lahore.
Drug trafficking in Balochistan
Drug trafficking has loomed heavily over Balochistan where heroin was introduced in the aftermath of the Afghan war in the early 1980s. Thousands of young people have fallen prey to it. As per the news report, 90 per cent of the world's opium is cultivated in Helmand province of Afghanistan. The majority of the drugs are smuggled to the Gulf States, Iran, and various European countries through the remote and concealed routes that crisscross Balochistan's rugged terrain.
As per reports, drug trafficking spreads across Balochistan with as many as seven critical drug trafficking paths traversing the province. The Zhob route particularly has become one of the principal drug trafficking highways in South Asia. Jahangir Kakar, the Director-General of Excise and Taxation and Narcotics, in 2022, said that 280,000 people were estimated to be in the clutches of addiction, 80 per cent of whom were below the age of 40.
Afghanistan - Major reason for Pakistan's drug problem
One of the major reasons behind the free flow of drugs in Pakistan is Afghanistan where various drugs including poppy are cultivated, Kadeem Baloch wrote in the report. In most cases, Pakistan acts as a conduit for the smuggling of drugs originating in Afghanistan to the rest of the world. Reportedly in late 2021 and early 2022, customs seized an "unprecedented" number of drugs, counting a record 130-kilogram haul of heroin at Torkham on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Pak's political unrest is another reason
Another reason for the increase in drug use in Pakistan is that those in positions of authority, power, wealth, and control offer them support, the report said. Pakistan has now become an importer and an exporter of drugs. The political unrest in Pakistan has provided drug mafias with greater opportunities to distribute narcotics across the country without any obstacles.
3,747 narcotics-related cases pending in courts
In January 2023, it was revealed that 3,747 narcotics-related cases were either pending or under trial in Pakistan's special courts for control of narcotics substances and the higher courts, Afghan Diaspora Network reported. The state's inability to keep an eye on its international borders has facilitated the drug smuggling trade from Afghanistan.
Drug addiction in Pakistan showcases a multifaceted crisis, presenting an unparalleled threat to the nation's social fabric. The high prevalence of drug abuse, coupled with a significant rise in related health concerns, demonstrates a growing public health crisis. The alarming rise of drug addiction among children and young adults reveals the deep penetration of this menace into Pakistan's society.