Drug Use in Pakistan: Key Findings & Way Forward

(Khan Zaeem, Karachi)

Poly-Drug use being a very common practice – one in five people reported this type of behavior.

This brief blog is based on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s report published in 2013 on Drug Use in Pakistan.

The key findings of the report are that approximately six percent of the population (6.7 million people) had used controlled substances including the misuse of prescription drugs in the last year. Four million people nationwide were reported to be regularly using cannabis with Poly-Drug use being a very common practice – one in five people reported this type of behavior.

Poly-Drug is a term used to describe the intake of two or more drugs for a certain effect, common examples are; Alcohol and Cannabis (Herb and Al), Alcohol and Cocaine (Snow-Coning), Caffeine and Cannabis (Hippie-Speedballing), the list is endless. 860,000 or 0.8 percent of the population are regular heroin users and 320,000 (0.3 percent) are opium users.

The majority of drug users fall between 25 and 39 years of age. Methamphetamine (crystal/ice) has made its way into the country with 19,000 people estimated to have used this in the past-year. It has been reported that 430,000 people nationwide are consuming drugs through injections, with 73 percent of them doing this by sharing syringes and without access to sterile injecting equipment – while only 13 percent among the general population can accurately name the three modes of HIV transmission. 1.6 million People (1.5 percent of the population) reported using painkillers without prescriptions. 4.25 million People are said to be in need of some kind of intervention to help them deal with their dependency.

The most common reason for inaccessibility to interventions is the difficulty to pay for it. The highest opiate use was found to be in Balochistan where 1.6 percent of the population uses either heroin, opium, or both. Punjab has the highest number of drug users and people who inject drugs due to its share of the population – with 2.9 million people using illegal substances and 260,000 people injecting illegal substances. 80 percent of the people in Punjab report sharing syringes, 2/3rds report sharing syringes in Sindh and Balochistan, and 50% report sharing syringes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The most severe cases of opiate dependency are found in KPK and Balochistan. Provincially, the highest prevalence rate is in KPK where 10.9 percent of the population uses illegal substances. Cocaine use was only detected in Pakistan administered Kashmir, where approximately 2,300 people reported using it in the past-year. These numbers aren’t exact as various factors (research/survey challenges) limit the reported types and amounts of drugs used.

Drug use is not an issue in isolation and that should be obvious concerned informants report social disruption based on the kind of drug they believe is causing it.

Apart from causing social disruption in neighborhood settings and families, it also leads to issues in the user’s health, employment, issues with law enforcement agencies, and problems in friendships.

When it comes to access to drop in centers, 93 percent of the people in KPK reported no access to such facilities, 95 percent reported the same in Balochistan, 86 percent in Punjab and 67 percent in Sindh reported having no access to intervention facilities. All of the above briefly summarizes the problem our country is facing.

The question now is, what should a strategy to counter all of this include?

The report suggests that the best way to counteract the drug use in Pakistan would be to efficiently employ a combination of supply control, medication management, raising awareness among policymakers, clinicians, parents, young people, and teachers, training healthcare professionals, collecting basic epidemiological data, focusing on psychological and emotional well-being through various channels, providing treatment and care programs which can take the form of workshops on needles and syringes, opioid substitution, HIV testing and counseling, prevention and treatment of STDs, condom programs, vaccinations and diagnosis of hepatitis and tuberculosis – I conclude this blog with two of the most important measures that can be taken against this issue to ensure the sustainability of the rehabilitation projects, these are monitoring and evaluating the programs and interventions being carried out while in cooperating with national and international stakeholders who can further provide guidance and investment towards the commitment to end drug abuse in the country.


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27 Dec, 2017 Views: 246


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