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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Whole Family has become Addicted to Opium

opium addiction

In war torn Afghanistan Opium is about the only drug that people can get their hands on. Opium is used for medicine in Afghanistan, after decades of struggle between the Russians in the 80's and the United States beginning in 2001 the country is left in the dark when it comes to medical aid. What was once used for medicine has now become an epidemic much like China in the 18th and 19th centuries, where whole villages have become hooked to Opium. National Geographic just interviewed the Beg family in the village of Sarab which has a population of fewer than 2,000, and half are already addicts. "I started taking a smoke until I got addicted to this (opium). I lost my property, I lost my strength, my bravery and now I am laying here with an empty stomach", says Islam Beg age 65. His whole family has become addicted to Opium and his one-year old grandson has already started taking the drug, the family's argument is that there is no other medicine - all they have is Opium.

Islam Beg once was the owner of much of the land in his village along with many animals, but now, he has nothing other than the pipe, as he and his family sold everything in order to keep it filled. Islam Beg is ashamed of the person that he has become and there is not much help out there for people in his position. The country of Afghanistan has few drug treatment facilities available, with less than 200 beds for drug rehab nationwide it is not surprising there is such a staggering number of addicts. Afghanistan's chief export happens to be Opium which is sold to pharmaceutical companies around the world for pain medication; and the opium that is not exported legally to pharmaceutical companies is exported illegally as the raw ingredient for heroin. Millions of dollars pour into Afghanistan, purchasing the drug for use in nations around the world. The United States in 2004 gave 4.4 billion dollars in aid for infrastructure, which I highly doubt much or any of that money went to heath care in a nation that has an estimated 150,000 opium addicts and a further 50,000 heroin addicts. Without support directed towards the addiction problem, many people will have little choice but to die an addict.

Islam Beg is "hopeful that his grandchildren will escape his fate, he believes they're not yet addicted", but, when you start using Opium at the age of one it is hard to see any other path. People will give up anything for the drug and without drug education and medical alternatives it is not surprising. Corporations make billions of dollars at the hands of a country in the grips of addiction. Villages in Afghanistan are in desperate need of relief in the way of drug treatment facilities; without foreign aid I do not see how children have any other fate away from the Opium pipe. "Decades of war and poverty have instilled a sense of hopelessness in many people here, making narcotics an easy destructive way to deal with an often grim reality."

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