Iran is notorious for the opium flowing within its borders. A significant portion of their population is plagued with addictions to opiates, and their meth problem is pretty severe as well. Some estimates in 2015 put the number of those addicted to illegal drugs at 2.2 million — 2.75% of the overall population. It has been credited as the country with the highest population of opiate addicts in the world, as well as the highest levels of opiate seizures in the world.

Iran is such a hotspot for drugs due to its geographical location. To the east lies Afghanistan and Pakistan, both considerable contributors to the heroin trade via their opiate production. To the west lies Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan and all of Europe. As opium makes its way through Iran to reach its western customers, naturally a huge amount of drugs are going to be distributed along the way. Most highways are littered with businesses that cater to the people who drive on it — Iran is a highway for illicit drugs, and it’s littered with illicit businesses who cater to that.

Approximately 308,647 lbs of heroin or opium come through the country each year with the intent to be distributed internationally. Currently, it is estimated that authorities are only able to find a quarter of that amount as it passes through. Even just this quarter amounts to around 89% of all opium confiscation in the world.

It’s because of this that heroin is so widely used in Iran. Though the opium is generally unprocessed in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iranian groups will derive heroin from opium in-country and sell it locally. Methamphetamines are also common there, accounting for approximately 8% of the drug use in the country.

Marijuana is illegal as well, and can even warrant the death penalty. In fact, it’s treated like many of the other illegal drugs, many of which can get someone put on death row, depending on the amount they are caught with. However, these laws have recently been amended — when before you could be put to death for possessing just over an ounce of cocaine, now that number stands at around 4.4 lbs (2kg).

Fighting drug trafficking directly is the primary method of prevention. Thousands of law enforcement officers have been killed; tens of thousands have been wounded in the fight against opium trafficking. Their war on drugs is quite literal.

This June 2012 photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows packets of opium covered in cinnamon hidden inside a rice cooker in Los Angeles. Officials found the rice cooker stuffed with 3 pounds’ worth of black opium, which had been coated in cinnamon and wrapped in plastic, being transported by a man arriving at Los Angeles International Airport from Iran. They also found a glass jar with a dark jelly-like substance in a suitcase that turned out to be opium. Officials said the opium had a street value of about $110,000. | U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP

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