South Asia

Sharp rise in Afghan drug addicts, UN report says

A man in an opium poppy field in Helmand. File photo
Image caption Opium trafficking provides the Taliban with much of its income

A new United Nations report says there has been a sharp rise in the number of drug addicts in Afghanistan.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime report says that Afghanistan is now a major consumer of opium and its derivatives.

The report says almost 3% of adults are addicted to heroin or opium, twice as many as five years ago. This is one of the world's highest rates of opiate addiction.

Afghanistan is the source of about 90% of the world's opium, the report says.

The head of UN Office on Drugs and Crime Antonio Maria Costa said many Afghans were taking drugs to ease the hardships of life, with parents in some areas even giving opium to their children.

The report said the number of regular opium users since 2005 has increased by 53%, while the number of heroin users has risen by 140%.

Treatment shortage

The survey also said there is a major shortage of drug treatment.

It said about a million Afghans - 8% of the population - now abuse drugs including opiates, cannabis and tranquilisers.

Last year the UN said corruption, lawlessness and uncontrolled borders result in only 2% of Afghan opiates being seized locally.

UN findings say an opium market worth $65bn (£39bn) funds global terrorism, caters to 15 million addicts and kills 100,000 people every year.

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