Iran’s Opioid Struggle
The Islamic Republic faces unique pressures but also pioneered responses.
- Iran’s population has one of the highest rates of opioid use among the major economies.
- Iran faces mounting heroin addiction domestically due to neighboring Afghan exports & trafficking.
- Iran has earned international respect for its scientific, model treatment efforts on opioids.
1. As a percentage of the population, Iran has one of the largest opioid problems among the world’s 30 largest economies, although it is not the highest share.
2. Altogether, 2.27% of the population between the ages of 15-64 are estimated to have been users in 2010, the latest year with data reported to the UN. Iran’s government has indicated that the situation has worsened since 2010.
3. A key part of the explanation is that Iran borders on Afghanistan, which is the world’s largest producer of opium.
4. In addition, Iran’s air and sea infrastructure is used to move product out of the region. Iran serves as one of the major drug trafficking paths between Afghanistan and Europe.
5. Iran and Pakistan are the two most important immediate destinations for opium products leaving Afghanistan.
6. Both countries do not just function as major transit points of the trade, but also have to fight growing consumption at home.
7. Iran’s government is consistently among the global leaders in seizures of smuggled opiates and heroin by volume each year, preventing significant volumes of narcotics from reaching the West.
8. Iran has also worked hard to address the addiction problem at home and earned international respect for its scientifically grounded, model treatment efforts.
9. Iran’s prevention, treatment and care of addiction to opium derivatives included a UN-backed 2002 pilot program on methadone and buprenorphine treatments.
10. This program, coupled with HIV prevention efforts, was eventually scaled up successfully and became a model for other governments in Southwest and Central Asia.
Sources: The Globalist Research Center and UNODC