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Photos | In Plain Sight: Iran's Drug Problem

by CONTRIBUTOR in Tehran

10 Nov 2011 16:06Comments
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Photos show drug dealers and addicts, including a prostitute, score as children play in a poor south Tehran neighborhood. Photos from contributor in Tehran. Text translated from a recent report by Iran's Khabar Online.

[ society ] Research conducted by Iran's Center for Counter-Narcotics in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime during the summer of 2011 shows that there are more than 72,000 women addicted to narcotics in the country.

The findings indicate that while the proportion of addicted females remains at around 6 percent of the total drug-addicted population of 1.2 million, they tend to face many more difficulties than male addicts.

According to research conducted by sociologist and women's rights activist Jaleh Shaditalab, most drug-addicted women in Tehran sleep on the streets and have no job skills. The void of government-sponsored assistance centers is palpable. There is not a single facility set up to serve the city's female addict population, and there is only a rudimentary shelter available for them, which in the cold months handles twice as many women as its 40-person capacity. In other words, from the mass of homeless women who are addicted to drugs in the capital, only 80 are lucky enough to be sure of surviving each freezing winter night.

Although most of the women who come to the Tehran shelter identify themselves as housewives, according to Shaditalab, nearly all married very young and most have left their families, either by force or willingly. Thus, they have no support from their families, and no desire or opportunity to return to their homes after overcoming their addictions.

Women in the capital's poorer, southern neighborhoods often quit school in the primary grades and are thus far less educated and employable than most women in the city center.

Shaditalab's research further shows that the standard four-week detoxication periods have no lasting benefits and that most treated women will return to prostitution and drug abuse due to lack of income and shelter.

Previous research on drug-addicted men has shown that employed and married men turn to drugs more often than those who are unemployed and/or single. This latest research indicates that women in the poor precincts of south Tehran become addicted mostly through their parents. Shaditalab suggests that they start using narcotic drugs to deal with "pain." This is in contrast to central and north Tehran, where addicted women tend to start using drugs with their spouses. They have relatively high degrees of family support and encouragement for their detoxication efforts.

Non-governmental organizations were key in identifying addicts for her research, says Shaditalab, who adds that the condition of drug-addicted women in south Tehran is so woeful that identifying them is quite easy. The help available to them is not adequate by any measure and their conditions worsen day to day.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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