Almost million Afghans use illegal drugs, UN survey says

Almost a million Afghans use illegal drugs, the United Nations said Thursday after the first survey of narcotics abuse in the world's largest supplier of opium and heroin. Some 150,000 take opium, 50,000 heroin, 520,000 hashish and 180,000 non-prescribed pharmaceuticals, said a joint statement by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime and Afghanistan's Counter Narcotics Ministry, which carried out the survey.

Seven percent of drug users are children, while 13 percent are women. The number of users of opium and heroin accounts for about 1.4 percent of the population. This is below the figure of 2.8 percent in neighboring Iran, but above other neighboring countries, such as Pakistan with 0.8 percent and Tajikistan with 1 percent.

The statement said the results of the survey would help focus campaigns to reduce drug abuse.

"We are concerned about some results from the survey but also pleased that this will now enable us to take more focused action to tackle this problem", says Gen. Khodaidad, Deputy Minister for Counter Narcotics.

Officials including President Hamid Karzai have stressed the dangers of addiction to persuade Afghans to shun a trade which U.N. experts have warned is turning the country into a "narco-state" less than four years after the fall of the Taliban.

Afghanistan last year produced 87 percent of the world's opium, much of which is refined into heroin for sale to addicts in Europe, Russia and elsewhere.

Donors including the United States and Britain are funding a drive to destroy crops, smash drug laboratories and arrest smugglers as well as to help farmers to switch to legal alternatives, reports the AP. I.L.

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