Iranians use more than two metric tons of narcotic drugs per day, a member of Majlis (Iran’s parliament) has cited the head of the Drug Control Headquarters (DCH), Eskandar Momeni, as saying.
The spokesman of parliament's judicial and legal committee, Hassan Norouzi, disclosed on Sunday, July 14 that the DCH head told members of parliament about the high rate of narcotics use in the country.
Last year, Iran’s interior minister said that 3 percent of the country’s population is addicted to drugs - mostly heroin. By international statistics, this is a high number, but not one of the highest in the world. But if the age group is narrowed to 15-64 year olds, the percentage jumps to 5.4.
Due to neighboring Afghanistan being the largest producer of opium, prices for heroin are extremely cheap in Iran. A gram of heroin can be bought for less than $2 in Iran. In comparison, the typical price of a gram of heroin in the United States ranges from $34 up to $40.
According to the "World Drug Report 2019" from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), Iran is one of the primary drugs transit highroads along with Central Asia, Pakistan, Turkey and India.
Furthermore, Iran holds the international record for seizing opium.
On July 9, Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi had said 3,815 Iranian law enforcement personnel had lost their lives and over 12,000 others wounded in the war on drug trafficking over the past four decades.
In the past three decades, Iran has seized approximately 11,000 tons of different types of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, he said, adding that in 2018 alone, Iranian forces carried out 1,557 operations against drug traffickers, seizing approximately 807 tons of different types of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
According to the "World Drug Report 2019", Iran in 2017 had seized "the largest quantity of opiates… accounting for 39 percent of the global total," the IRGC-run Tasnim news agency cited the envoy as saying.
Meanwhile, the deputy head of Iran's presidential office for fighting narcotics, Nasser Aslani, revealed on July 10 that 70 percent of the prisoners in the country were criminals sentenced for drug-related offenses.
But there is a contradiction in the reported high rate of drug seizures and the high rate of addictions. If Iran is so effective in combating trafficking, then why does it have nearly 3 million regular drug users? One answer may be its proximity to Afghanistan, the main producer of opium
Another explanation might lie in the possible unreliability of official figures.
Iranian law enforcement agencies are not accountable to the media or politicians very much and the information they choose to disseminate is not subject to any independent review. This could mean that numbers about drug seizures can be exaggerated.
According to Aslani, more than 2.8 million Iranians use narcotic drugs regularly and, based on 2017 data, nearly 5.4 percent of fifteen to 64-year-old Iranians are drug addicts.
Based on research carried out by the Iranian Drug Control Organization, out of the total 2.8 million drug addicts in Iran, 67 percent use heroin or some other forms of refined opium. While its highly addictive nature may cause the widespread use of heroin, its popularity is due to the sheer amount of opium circulating in the country.
In the meantime, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that more than 53 per one million Iranians lose their lives by using narcotic drugs. The rate is the highest in the region, even higher than Afghanistan, the world's major producer of opium.
Afghanistan's opium poppy harvest produces more than 90 percent of illicit heroin globally and more than 95 percent of the European supply.
On July 11, the chief of the Joint Staff of the Iranian armed forces said, "Iran will not pay the cost for stopping the flow of drugs from Afghanistan to Europe if the US sanctions imposed on Tehran continue."
IRGC Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri's threat has been made several times before by other officials, including Iran's current and former police chiefs, in an apparent attempt to frighten Europeans and encourage them to persuade the US to reduce its pressure on Iran.
Meanwhile, Nasser Aslani disclosed on Sunday, July 14, "More than 52,000 people were arrested in the first quarter of the current Iranian calendar (beginning March 21) for narcotic drugs-related crimes."