May 29, 2007
The deputy head of Iran's anti-narcotics organization, Mohammad Reza Jahani, recently said that the number of intravenous heroin users has reached 250,000 of the estimated 350,000 heroin users in the country. According to the health ministry, the number of heroin users in Iran is increasing by 8 percent annually. Intravenous heroin users numbered 137,000 in 2006, according to the ministry.
Iran is on one of the main trafficking routes for heroin, opium, morphine and cannabis produced in Afghanistan. Designer drugs have also found their way into the country in recent years. Officials estimate Iran has 2 million regular drug users in a population of 70 million.
Jahani said Iran's parliament has more than doubled the budget for treating drug users to 200 billion rials ($21.5 million U.S.), up from 80 billion rials ($8.6 million U.S.) the year before. Iran has begun treating drug users as "criminals who need to be healed" rather than throwing them into already overcrowded jails.
Independent nongovernmental organizations such as Narcotics Anonymous, which set up in Iran in the mid-1990s, have been operating in many Iranian towns and cities. Methadone detoxification projects and needle exchanges have also been introduced to help curb HIV infections, which number 70,000 and are climbing.