The issue of drug abuse in Pakistan

Dr Imran Khan

The International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking or World Drug Day is marked on June 26 every year. The ultimate goal of this effort is to achieve a world free of drug abuse. To achieve this goal, dozens of international organizations and hundreds of their sub-sections are working worldwide.

In Pakistan, several government and non-government organizations are putting their efforts in this regard. But unfortunately, in spite of all these preventive measures, the incident of illicit drug use is on rise globally as well as in Pakistan. Media reports reveal that almost all illicit drugs are easily available throughout the country. The alarming fact is that drugs are even available in educational institutions, hostels and inside prisons as reported by different media organizations and by the people who are victims of the addiction.

According to the latest statistics by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), the total number of drug addicts in Pakistan is 7.6 million, of which 78 percent are males and 22 percent are females. The number of these addicts is increasing at the rate of 40,000 per year. Pakistan is now one of the most drug affected countries in the world. Although, Pakistan itself is recognized by the entire world as a poppy free state (less than 1,000 hectors), but a victim of Afghan opiates drug trafficking.

It is to be noted that poppy is mostly cultivated in South-west Asia and South-east Asia, Afghanistan being the biggest cultivator (183,000 hectors). Cocaine is produced from coca bush which is only cultivated in South America, whereas cannabis herb is produced in most of the countries of the world.

In our country, the cannabis or heroine is already a much bigger problem but during the last decade “ice drug” has become the fastest growing stuff of addiction. “Ice” is a very much addictive drug, a powerful stimulant and one of the forms of methamphetamine.

It is worth mentioning that drug addiction is a vast but a neglected issue. Actually, it is more dangerous than the pandemic of Covid-19 in terms of its biological, psychological and social adverse effects. Compared to terrorism, drug addiction causes 685 deaths daily worldwide, while 49 deaths occur per day due to terrorism.

The issue of drug abuse and addiction is further complicated in the homeland by its easy availability, lower price, lack of adequate punishment and lack of awareness and education. Drug addiction treatment is specifically excluded and all psychiatric disorders are also not included in Sehat Insaf Card, which needs to be properly addressed as soon as possible.

To cope with this disastrous situation, we need regular awareness campaigns by media, teachers and ulema on one hand and effective measures to reduce its availability on the other hand and then rehabilitation centers can play effective role for rest of the cases.

The writer is a well-known mental health expert and Assistant Professor and Chairman at the Department of Psychiatry, Khyber Medical College/Khyber Teaching Hospital (MTI-KTH), Peshawar. Besides, he is also the Chapter Chief of Pakistan Psychiatric Society (PPS), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He can be contacted at:

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