Drug Addiction in Pakistan

Substance dependence is a major problem Worldwide, Pakistan being no exception. The drugs commonly used in Pakistan are Cannabis, Opium, Alcohol, Codeine, Heroin and many Tranquilizers. United Nations Office for Drug and Crime (UNODC, 2013) data revealed that about 6.7 million substance dependents with age range of 15-64 found in Pakistan. One in every 27 persons in Pakistan is using drugs while nearly 25% of the youth population is involved in some form of drug abuse in Pakistan, opiate users are about 1% which is also very high prevalence. Drug abuse is most prevalent in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa where 11% of the population uses drugs, followed by Sindh where 6.5% of the population is drug addict. In Baluchistan, almost 5% population uses drugs while in Punjab, 4.8% of the population is drug addict. Cannabis (Chars) is the most commonly used drug in Pakistan; with Almost 5.8% of the adult population is addict of cannabis. Opiates namely opium and heroin are used by almost 1% of overall drug users .

There are 420,000 people who inject drugs in Pakistan, which represents 0.4% population. Non-medical use of tranquilizers and sedatives is higher among women. Young people are more susceptible to drug use.

They often talk about the "highs" but may not be aware of the many "lows". The widespread availability of drugs in Pakistan is making it easy for them to be addicts. Drug addiction among the youth is killing them morally and socially as well psychologically and even physically. The reason why the number of drug addicted people especially youth is increasing alarmingly in Pakistan is that the drug lobbys in the country are fully backed and supported by the powerful and the wealthy who have got ample influence. Moreover, apparently, police and drug mafia are colluding. Moreover, easy availability of narcotics and psychological effects of violence are also playing part. Children who have suffered violence in their life or who have undergone a traumatic experience turn to drugs to forget about the loss.

What are the causes of Drug Addiction?

Majority of drug addicts usually start with soft drugs like 'Chaaliya', 'Naswar', 'Gutka' and 'Paan' and then move to the hard drugs like Cannabis, Heroin, Opium, Cocaine, Ice etc. The purchase of drugs or alcohol by young people is usually through dealers or 'agents', who are just a phone call away. Their numbers are distributed widely at hostels for students. In Pakistan, users can get up to 20 Chars cigarettes only for Rs 1400. The drug abuse is often linked to factors such as risk taking behaviors that may involve experimenting with narcotics, smoking and alcohol, social isolation, stress, anxiety, depression, peer pressure (bad company), modern life style, hippy culture, family conflicts, unemployment, excessive pocket money by parents and lack of supervision and attention, the desire for social acceptance, boredom, curiosity, just to feel good, weak religious belief and lot of free time, easy access to drugs at low prices, and easy availability, existence and presence of drug dens, to heighten sexual pleasure, and extension of timing, to overcome frustration and/or tragedies, usage as a pain medication and fashion.

Physical health and sexual health of addicts weaken so rapidly that a young man of thirties looks an old man of over-sixties. "Drug use in general leads to a number of health problems, such as malnutrition, apathy, menstrual irregularities in women and irregular heart rhythm and premature death." 

Some of the physical effects of drugs might sound nice but they do not last long. Many people get depressed and start feeling sick. There is economic breakdown of family, loss of self-confidence and a will to work, loss of job, indulgence in crimes such as theft, and suicidal thoughts.
Drug addicts are also more prone to accidents and are at higher risk of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B & C, tuberculosis, suicide, overdose deaths and cardiovascular diseases. Married drug addicts have high probability of having mentally retarded and physically handicapped children. Young people who use cannabis are doubling their risk of psychotic symptoms like schizophrenia, hallucinations, hearing voices etc.