‘A silent tsunami’

Opioid epidemic is devastating women in Afghanistan

An Afghan farmer stands in a blooming poppy field. (Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images)

A rising opium and heroin epidemic in Afghanistan has begun taking a toll on the country’s women, tens of thousands of whom are believed to be suffering from addiction inside their homes and outside of the public eye.

In recent years, efforts at eradicating opium poppies and substituting them with less dangerous crops have largely been abandoned in Afghanistan as foreign funding flags and attacks by the Taliban resurge, The Washington Post reports. From 2010 to 2015, U.N. experts estimate that number of opium users in Afghanistan has tripled — addiction in the country, the U.N. noted, was effectively keeping pace with “the same hyperbolic growth of opium production.” Most opium users in Afghanistan, the U.N. report claimed, had begun taking the drug as “a kind of self-medication against the hardships of life.”

“It is a silent tsunami, and if it is not controlled, in another few years it will be a disaster,” warned Shaista Hakim, a drug rehabilitation specialist working at the newly opened National Center for the Treatment of Addiction for Women and Children.

“Every woman here has problems like mountains, layer on top of layer,” she added. “They are so vulnerable, and their addiction involves the entire family, so we have to treat the entire family.”

Washington Post reporter Pamela Constable and photographer Andrew Quilty visited a new rehabilitation center (which is officially run by the Ministry of Public Health but largely subsists off of U.S. funding) where 72 women and children are undergoing treatment for addiction. In photos and in Constable’s account, a grim portrait of lives marred by addiction emerges. Among the stories she tells, Constable recounts the excruciating plight of a 16-year-old girl who shows up at the rehab facility with her mother and tells some hard truths about why they’re both there.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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