AP PHOTOS: Despair and poverty fuel drug use in Afghanistan

Jul 19, 2022, 11:11 PM | Updated: Jul 20, 2022, 11:05 am
Taliban fighters look for drug addicts hiding in the garbage to detain and move them to a drug trea...

Taliban fighters look for drug addicts hiding in the garbage to detain and move them to a drug treatment camp, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, June 1, 2022. Drug addiction has long been a problem in Afghanistan, the world’s biggest producer of opium and heroin. The ranks of the addicted have been fueled by persistent poverty and by decades of war that left few families unscarred. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Hundreds of men using heroin, opium and meth were strewn over a hillside above Kabul in tents or lying in the dirt. Some of them overdose, and quietly slip across the line from despair to death.

“There’s a dead man next to you,” someone told me as I picked my way among them, taking pictures.

“We buried someone over there earlier,” another said.

One man was face down in the mud, not moving. I shook him by the shoulder and asked if he was alive. He turned his head a bit, just half out of the mud, and whispered that he was.

“You’re dying,” I told him. “Try to survive.”

“It’s fine,” he said, his voice sounding exhausted. “It’s OK to die.”

He lifted his body a little. I gave him some water, and someone gave him a glass pipe of heroin. Smoking it gave him some energy. He said his name was Dawood. He had lost a leg to a mine about a decade ago during the war and couldn’t work after that. His life fell apart and he turned to drugs to escape.

Drug addiction has long been a problem in Afghanistan, the world’s biggest producer of opium and heroin and now a major source of meth. The drug use has been fueled by persistent poverty and decades of war that left few families unscarred.

It appears to be getting worse since the country’s economy collapsed following the seizure of power by the Taliban in August 2021 and the subsequent halt of international financing. Families once able to get by found their livelihoods cut off, leaving many barely able to afford food. Millions have joined the ranks of the impoverished.

Drug users can be found around Kabul, living in parks and sewage drains, under bridges and on open hillsides.

A 2015 survey by the U.N. estimated that up to 2.3 million people had used drugs that year, which would have amounted to about 5% of the population at the time. Seven years later, the number is not known, but it’s believed to have only increased, according to Dr. Zalmel, the head of the Drug Demand Reduction Department who like many Afghans uses only one name.

The Taliban have launched an aggressive campaign to eradicate poppy cultivation. At the same time, they inherited the ousted, internationally backed government’s policy of forcing drug users into camps.

Earlier this summer, Taliban fighters stormed two areas frequented by drug users — the one on the hillside and another under a bridge. They collected about 1,500 people, officials said. They were taken to the Avicenna Medical Hospital for Drug Treatment, a former U.S. military base.

It’s the largest of several treatment camps around Kabul. There, the residents were shaved and kept in a barracks for 45 days. They receive no treatment or medication as they go through withdrawal. The camp barely has enough money to feed those who live there.

Such camps do little to treat addiction.

A week after the raids, both locations were once again full of hundreds of people using drugs.

On the hillside, I saw a man who was wandering in the darkness with a feeble flashlight. He was searching for his brother, who fell into drug use years ago and left home. “I hope one day I can find him,” he said.

Under the bridge, where the stench was overwhelming, one man in his 30s who identified himself as Nazer seemed to be a figure of respect, breaking up fights and mediating disputes.

He said he spends most of his days under the bridge but goes to his home every once in a while. Addiction has spread throughout his family, he said.

When I expressed surprise that the area under the bridge had filled up again, Nazir smiled.

“It’s normal,” he said. “Every day, they become more and more. … It never ends.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - People walk outside the U.S Capitol building in Washington, June 9, 2022. The biggest invest...
Associated Press

In Biden’s big bill: Climate, health care, deficit reduction

WASHINGTON (AP) — The biggest investment ever in the U.S. to fight climate change. A hard-fought cap on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for seniors in the Medicare program. A new corporate minimum tax to ensure big businesses pay their share. And billions left over to pay down federal deficits. All told, the Democrats’ “Inflation Reduction […]
23 hours ago
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, A...
Associated Press

House Dems set to overcome GOP for climate, health care win

WASHINGTON (AP) — A flagship Democratic economic bill perched on the edge of House passage Friday, placing President Joe Biden on the brink of a back-from-the-dead triumph on his climate, health and tax goals that could energize his party ahead of November’s elections. Democrats were poised to muscle the measure through the narrowly divided House […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsy...
Associated Press

Fetterman plans ‘raw’ remarks in return to PA Senate race

ERIE, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman is expected to open up about his personal health challenges as he officially returns to the campaign trail Friday, more than 90 days after the Democrat suffered a stroke that threatened his life and political prospects in one of the nation’s premier Senate contests. Fetterman will […]
23 hours ago
Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, center in blue mask, and other lawmakers participate in a prote...
Associated Press

At 75, India’s democracy is under pressure like never before

NEW DELHI (AP) — The Aug. 5 demonstrations by India’s main opposition Congress party against soaring food prices and unemployment began like any other recent protest — an electorally weak opposition taking to the New Delhi streets against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s massively popular government. The protests, however, quickly took a turn when key Congress […]
23 hours ago
A Clinton County employee helps direct traffic as an Ohio State Highway Patrol vehicle leaves the s...
Associated Press

Suspect who tried to breach FBI office dies in standoff

WILMINGTON, Ohio (AP) — Authorities are investigating the motives of an armed man who they say tried to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati office, fled and died hours later in a rural standoff with law enforcement, a case unfolding as the FBI warns agents to take extra precautions amid increased social media threats to its employees […]
23 hours ago
A long line of voters wraps around the Sedgwick County Historic Courthouse in Wichita, Kan., on the...
Associated Press

Kansas abortion vote shows limits of GOP’s strength

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An increase in turnout among Democrats and independents and a notable shift in Republican-leaning counties contributed to the overwhelming support of abortion rights last week in traditionally conservative Kansas, according to a detailed Associated Press analysis of the voting results. A proposed state constitutional amendment would have allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
AP PHOTOS: Despair and poverty fuel drug use in Afghanistan