10 years ago, many young adults in Kandahar, Afghanistan didn’t even know that heroin existed. Today there are thousands of opiate addicts fighting for treatment where the wait is hundreds of people long at opiate treatment centers.
As the cultivation of poppy booms, so does the use of and addiction to heroin. The Afghanistan Ministry of Counter Narcotics says that there are only 36 rehabilitation and treatment centers for drug addicts in the entire country. This is mostly because the funding comes from non-governmental private parties.
In Kandahar, the local treatment center has a list of over 600 people waiting to get in one of the 10 residential spaces to receive help for their opiate addiction.
The United Nations office on Drugs estimates that over one million people are addicted to some kind of drug, and that their are over 5,000 addicted to heroin in Kandahar city alone. Within Kandahar it is estimated that over 30,000 heroin packets are sold each day. Many believe that the rise in heroin addicts is increasing do to the current government. Studies show that during Taliban rule the amount of heroin addicts was down significantly.
During the Taliban’s rule over the country the cultivation of poppy was almost completely gone. However, after 9/11 and the collapse of the Taliban, thousands of farmers have returned to growing poppies in order to generate a steady income. It is estimated that more than $3 billion is made each year from the sale of opium by Afghan farmers.
Many experts believe that treatment alone is not going to solve the addiction problems that the country is facing. There is almost zero prevention, and until there is some prevention opiate addiction will run rampant.