Kurdistan Regional Government officials alongside various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are now claiming that Kurdistan and Iraq are in the middle of an illegal drug crisis. The number of citizens addicted to illicit substances has risen dramatically recently, authorities say this is due to several reasons. The leader of the Organization for Countering Drugs, Ibrahim Ramadhan, told local media that,

Unfortunately, the users of drugs in the Kurdistan Region increase on a daily basis. Currently about 10,000 individuals in all the three provinces of the Kurdistan Region are drug users. We have to tackle it and prevent it so that it doesn’t spread even more.”

Ramadhan says the numbers are not alarming when compared to other countries and that the three counterdrug units in Kurdistan keep the numbers low. However, he also believes that if the trend continues, Kurdistan could be facing severe social problems. He added that finding drugs has become easy due to the efforts of “mafias and greedy traders.” He claims that Kurdish youth vacation in Iran and Turkey where they become exposed to drug culture and begin experimenting with them, this leads to addiction. Ramadhan stated that, “We haven’t been able to sufficiently work up to now because the financial conditions of the organizations are very bad.” He went on to advocate the Ministry of Health’s responsibility to combat the issue and there needs to be stricter regulations regarding pharmaceuticals.

Currently, there are no substance abuse rehabilitation clinics in Kurdistan. An expert in the field of psychological afflictions, Dr. Rawisht Rashid told local media that, “Unfortunately, there is no center dedicated to rehabilitating drug addicts in Kurdistan as of yet. Addiction is medico-socio-psychological issue.” He added that mental health clinics do exist but that they are poorly equipped to handle patients dealing with addiction — saying that the recovery process is a “lengthy endeavor”.

During a conference held by the Iraqi Ministry of Health this week, the issue of using security forces to counter drug use and distribution was discussed. Dr. Imad Abdulrazaq, who works directly with Iraq’s Ministry of Health, said, “Prevention is the most important basics of countering and containing the spread of drugs.” He claims that the deteriorating security situation paired with constant cultural and economic issues are major contributing factors to Kurdistan’s drug problem.

Featured image: View of the castle in the middle of Hawler, Kurdistan | By jan kurdistani [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons