It’s no secret that Afghanistan is a focal point in the War on Terror and the world’s leader in producing heroin, but there are unintended consequences of these two facts specifically the increasing number of Afghani women and children who are addicted to drugs.
According to a new study from the Afghan government in coordination with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, the female population, inside the Afghanistan warzone is turning to illegal drugs and alcohol to overcome disparity of life in the religious tribal nation.
Mohammad Ibrahim Azhar, Afghanistan’s Deputy Counter-Narcotics Minister says there are more than one million Afghans, including women and children, who have succumbed to the addiction of heroin.
The Afghanistan narcotics minister reports that the increase in addiction rates stem from the rise in products made from the opium poppies grown in the economically poor war-torn nation.
The current nine-year war has driven many Afghanis into poverty. Couple that with the social pressures of strict religious beliefs and forced marriages (often at very young ages) has pushed many women to use illicit drugs as a form of escapism, Azhar said.
Also, many women who live in Afghanistan are refused medical treatment for various illnesses and turn to heroin as a painkiller; however once they embark down this road the addiction becomes difficult to kick.
One woman told Radio Free Europe, on condition of anonymity, that she turned to heroin because her husband refused her medical care.
“I was ill for a long time,” she said. “My husband didn’t care. He didn’t bother to take me to a hospital. I went to a local man to get a powder to kill the pain. I only found out later that it was morphine, but by then I was addicted to it. That led to me taking heroin. I am so ashamed of that. Every one in the family and the local community who knows I am addicted hates me. I want to get rid of this shame as soon as possible.”
There are a number of free drug treatment centers in Afghanistan, according to the Health Ministry, but only a small number of women seek treatment because of the country’s conservative Islamic beliefs.
Due to Afghanistan’s strict religious laws, many women are forced to conceal their addiction in order to prevent bringing shame to their family that leads them to be branded as sinners. Also, seeking treatment for drug addiction problems is prohibited by Islamic law.
It’s clear that the 10-year-Russian war and the U.S. led nine-year- War on Terror have certainly left their impetuous marks on a broken tribal nation struggling to finds its identity.