The number of drug users in Pakistan has gone up from 50,000 in 1980 to 8.1 million in 2011. Every year at least 50,000 more people get addicted to different kinds of drugs. On average, an addict spends between Rs3,000 and Rs3,300 on drugs in Pakistan.

These figures were quoted by Syed Zulfiqar Hussain, a consultant working with the Anti Narcotics Campaign, at a seminar held on Saturday to mark the International Day against Drug Abuse andIllicit Trafficking.

Hussain said that according to the National Survey of Drug Abuse and Resurgence El Paso, hashish was the most common drug in the country.

He said drug use in Pakistan should be understood in reference to its location next to Afghanistan which is the biggest producer and exporter of opium. He said the quantity of opium consumed in Pakistan had gone up to 80 million tonnes. This, he said, was more than the quantity consumed in India (67 million tonnes). He said more than 80 per cent of addicts confined in Italy were Pakistanis.

The seminar was organised jointly by the Youth Council for Anti Narcotics (YOCFAN), the Pakistan Girl Guide Association (PGGA) and Save the Life (from

drugs) London.

Hussain said most people living in poverty-stricken areas of the country got addicted to drugs because some of their elders had been addicts throughout their lives. “Most people get the habit by watching their elders while growing up,” he said.

He said nowadays even A-class (without any impurity) drugs were easily available in low-income areas. He said market had no role in determining the use of drug in the country. “There is an extensive supply of drugs such as opium and hashish in the country. Apparently, police and drug mafia are colluding,” he said.

The organisers later announced that a Drug Abuse Information and Resource Centre would soon be set up as part of a campaign against drug use. Some people in the audience questioned the effectiveness of such initiatives and said that the government had taken several such initiatives in the past. They said it had been six months since the launch of Lahore Drug Free City campaign but no progress was visible.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2011.

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