February 15, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The head of Iran's Antidrug Headquarters warned on February 11 that Iranian youngsters are increasingly using recreational drugs in the form of pills. Fada Hussein Maleki urged officials to work together and explore new avenues to fight drug use in Iran.
Maleki pled with officials "to use all...scientific and cultural capabilities to respond, and [to] prevent young people's preference" for the substances.
Speaking to the Antidrug Coordination Council in the eastern Hamedan Province on February 11, Maleki said Iran has curbed the use of "traditional" drugs like heroin or opium. But he contrasted that news with evidence that there has been an increase in the use of pills. Maleki argued that "families and parents must become involved" to combat the problem.
Opium From The East
Iranian officials regularly lament the inflow of drugs into Iran from neighboring Afghanistan, and the obvious failure to stop drug production there.
Maleki echoed those concerns, telling the council that increasing opium cultivation in Afghanistan is "a serious threat." He noted growing numbers of Afghan opium addicts and higher cultivation of opium poppies.
He suggested the figures reflect "foreign...plots to raise the level of addiction in the region," IRNA reported. He also claimed that the creation of a major police and security compound in eastern Iran has reduced drug-related banditry and crime in Iran's eastern provinces, and forced traffickers to send their drugs through Pakistan.
Maleki urged all government branches to cooperate in fighting narcotics, and commented in his speech on the ongoing work of rehabilitation centers, efforts to improve laws, and sanitary measures to prevent the spread of infections among intravenous drug users.
He stressed that his headquarters backs provincial coordination centers -- like the one at which he was speaking -- which take the antidrug fight to a local level and boost the relevant skills among provincial officials.
Dealing With Addicts
Hamedan Province's chief health-care official, Akbar Mir-Arab, also spoke of efforts in the province to reduce the addict population, which include the activities of 25 public and private rehabilitation centers. A provincial police chief, Ali Rustai, told the same meeting that nearly 15,000 people had been arrested on drug-related offenses in Hamedan in the previous 10 months, IRNA reported.
Sixty tons of opium being burned in what has become an annual ritual (epa)Separately, a deputy head of the Antidrug Headquarters, Amir Hossein Mottahar, said according to Fars news agency on February 12 that the organization is now implementing the second phase of a plan to clear addicts off the streets -- although it was not immediately clear if he meant nationwide or just in the capital, Tehran.
He said there had been a "good response" to the first phase, in which addicts were invited to turn up at police stations and health-care centers to undergo voluntary treatment and rehabilitation. The tradeoff was freedom from arrest or prosecution. He said the second stage -- which presumably involves the arrests of other addicts -- will be implemented in the Persian year that ends on March 20.
Alongside educational and rehabilitation efforts, recent reports indicate that authorities continue law enforcement operations to stem the flow of drugs and other contraband.
A "special police operation" recently targeted drugs and other smuggled goods in the eastern Khorasan-i Razavi Province, which is in Iran's troublesome and dangerous eastern frontier region, Radio Farda reported on February 5.
Meanwhile, local official Gholam Dastgir Azad told Afghanistan's Tolo Television on February 13 that a wall is being built 500 meters inside Iran's border with Afghanistan's Kang district.
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