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Tiny Nation Has World's Worst Heroin Problem

Nearly 10% of Seychelles working population is addicted
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 21, 2019 12:10 PM CST
Footprints in the sand, taken on a beach on Mahe island, Seychelles, Friday March 1, 2019.   (AP Photo/David Keyton)

(Newser) – Coral reefs, beautiful beaches ... and the world's worst heroin problem. In the Seychelles, nearly 10% of the working population is addicted to the drug, the highest per capita rate of heroin abuse around the globe, the BBC reports. Of the 94,000 people living in the Indian Ocean archipelago—which is visited by an estimated 360,000 tourists each year—5,000 to 6,000 are addicted to heroin, per a new report by the archipelago's Agency for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation. EuroMoney reported last month that most of those addicted are young men with no more than a secondary school education.

The 115 islands that make up the Seychelles have a lot of porous and therefore difficult to monitor borders, making it easy for drugs to be smuggled in. Rather than criminalizing drug addiction, however, the anti-drug agency last year introduced a policy that treats addiction as a chronic disease. Heroin users can either join a "high-threshold" Methadone Maintenance Program and commit to detox (this program includes an in-patient treatment program) or a "low-threshold" program focusing on harm reduction; both programs include both medical and psychosocial support, and more than 2,000 people are so far enrolled. (Read more heroin stories.)

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