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Pakistan: Peshawar's heroin dens 13 images Created 15 Apr 2010

Cheap, readily available opium, heroin and hashish have a profound effect on a population. Peshawar is on the northern Pakistani border with Afghanistan, and thus receives a large drug smuggling community, which addicts and gun wielding drug-lords inevitably follow. UNODC data shows that more land is used to grow opium in Afghanistan, than for coca in Latin America. Once such a business has been established, it of course sticks around for a long time. Generations of local men and women get drawn into the trade, and end up ruining their lives, prematurely ending from either drugs, guns or both. It is currently estimated that in 2007 90% of the heroin traded on the streets of Britain, was grown in the fields of Afghanistan. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the level of opium poppy production has increased year on year. 2007 was the largest crop on record for Afghanistan.
From talking to aid workers in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, I learned that opium is used by local people as a 'one-for-all' remedy. If a newborn baby cries, they are given a small amount of opium to 'calm' them. Thus many babies are addicted to opium before the age of four months old. Cold, headache and tiredness are also treated by opium in poorer rural areas where doctors are not often present.
During my time in the area I visited a rehabilitation centre. There are only a hand-full of such places, and they are funded entirely from private donors. Neither the Pakistani or Afghan governments provide any type of help or assistance to those who fall victim to these horrible drugs. Many of the doctors working there are paid a minimum, and often volunteer their time. Patients must admit themselves, and due to a crumbling economy many just do not have time, or have to travel such large distances to reach one of the rehabilitation centres.
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