According to the Drug Use in Pakistan 2013 Survey Report, a joint study by the UN, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, and Narcotics Control Division, there are 7.6 million drug addicts in Pakistan, of which 78 percent are men, and 22 percent are women. With about four million users, cannabis is Pakistan’s most widely used narcotic. Nearly 1% of all drug users use opiates, specifically opium and heroin, with 860,000 people using heroin regularly. According to the report, an estimated three million drug users urgently need medical attention. But the rehabilitation infrastructure now in place can only assist a small portion of individuals who require assistance. A reasonable estimate places drug users’ growth rate at 40,000 per year. The survey’s most alarming finding is the rising number of heroin addicts in the nation, with an average age of use below 24. The areas closest to Afghanistan’s neighbouring central poppy-growing regions had the most excellent rates of heroin use.
Ten colleges and two universities in Lahore were recently surveyed. The results revealed startling information on drug abuse among students. Fifty-seven percent of the students polled admitted to using one or more drugs. Experts claim that the study was the first- attempt to collect baseline data on the prevalence and trends of drug use among the population, particularly youth. Cesar Guedes, a UNODC representative, claims that Pakistan’s National Drug Use Survey 2013 gave detailed information on drug use and HIV connected to drugs. The report’s findings served as the foundation for future planning and program design for drug prevention and treatment in Pakistan. Men are more likely to use marijuana and opiates than women, who are more likely to use tranquillizers, sedatives, and prescription amphetamines. However, the research also revealed a concerningly high prevalence (1.6 million) of non-medical prescription drug usage nationwide, especially among women. According to the study, virtually all of the women who responded to the survey claimed that they eventually turned to abuse medicines with opioid bases (such as morphine, for example) and, to a lesser extent, tranquillizers and sedatives, which are widely available in pharmacies.
Most drugs come from Afghanistan, where at least 75% of the world’s heroin is produced and distributed. According to UNODC estimates, more than 800,000 Pakistanis between the ages of 15 and 64 frequently use heroin. Additionally, Pakistan is thought to consume up to 44 tons of processed heroin each year, which is twice or three times the rate of consumption in America. One hundred ten additional tons of heroin and morphine are transported from Afghanistan to foreign markets via Pakistan. A realistic estimate places the annual revenue from Pakistan’s illegal drug trade at up to two billion dollars. In Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where about 11% of people abuse drugs, drug users are exceptionally high. In Balochistan, there were 280,000 drug users in 2013. In recent years, the number of people using injectable drugs has dramatically climbed. Pakistan had an estimated 90,000 injecting drug users in 2007, but by 2014, that figure had increased to almost 500,000. An increase in HIV positive has also coincided with this growth. Recent studies indicate that in 2005, 11% of drug users in Pakistan were HIV positive. The percentage had increased to 40% by 2011.
According to the report, most drug users often start with soft drugs like chhaliya, gutka, and pan before switching to more complex substances like heroin, opium, cocaine, etc. Young people typically buy drugs or alcohol from dealers or “agents” who can be reached by phone. It is simple to pass their numbers back and forth. The contact information is also extensively dispersed in hostels, hotels, and other locations that are often shielded from law enforcement organizations’ prying eyes. Drug misuse is an issue that cannot be understood in isolation from the current sociopolitical and economic conditions. Young people are becoming more conscious of the current system, where cronyism, corruption, and money dominance are the norm, and they despise it. Young people seek escape from drugs or terrorism because they do not want to be a part of this repressive system and lack an adequate substitute. The increasing economic inequality, unemployment, political unpredictability, terrorist attacks, suicide bombings, and unending sectarian and ethnic conflicts, according to social experts, have all had a significant impact on the general mindset and behaviour of young people.
The response of society to drug usage and those who suffer from it has been poor and insufficient. Treatment and specialized care are in scarce supply, a poll reveals. There are less than 30,000 drug users who can access treatment. According to the survey, 64% of respondents said it was difficult to seek treatment. The vast majority of people (80%) cannot afford therapy. Twenty-three percent of the respondents named a significant treatment barrier as the absence of in-patient facilities at government hospitals. Yet, at some point in their lives, 44% sought drug treatment, and 96% of them sought treatment for heroin addiction.
Sending addicts to a rehabilitation facility is the most straightforward and efficient method, say specialists. Drug addicts have been proven to respond best to a humanistic approach to treatment. But first and foremost, parents must educate their children and practice prevention. Parents need to be watchful and monitor their children’s activities and friends. According to experts, the disastrous impacts of drugs should be acknowledged even at the school level, and awareness-raising initiatives should be started, mainly through electronic media. Drug cartels operate with impunity because they are confident they cannot be stopped or held accountable.
The Anti-Narcotics Force is an executive branch of the federal government entrusted with preventing drug trafficking and abuse inside Pakistan. However, its performance has been, at best, uneven. The only option to lower the prevalence of drug usage in the nation is for government agencies to crack down hard on drug gangs. Due to the rising drug use, the government must impose harsh sanctions and punishments on anyone who is caught selling drugs, especially if they do so to minors. A nation cannot advance if its youth engage in destructive self-harming behaviours. They are putting themselves and the entire society in danger by toying with fire. To stop the threat before it’s too late, several government organizations involved in law enforcement, health, and social services should work together. The trick can still be achieved by treating addicts and destroying the mafia in charge of the supply chain. But, first, the appropriate authorities should investigate the issue, should take serious action to control the illegal and unethical trade. What’s at risk is the country’s future.