Opium Addiction Hooks Afghan Families

By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2009 4:33 PM CDT
In dozens of mountain hamlets in this remote corner of Afghanistan, opium addiction has become so entrenched that whole families%u2014from toddlers to old men%u2014are addicts.   (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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(Newser) – Afghanistan’s booming opium industry has hooked entire families on drugs, forcing them to sell land, livestock, and daughters to pay for their addiction, the AP reports. Some 200,000 Afghans are strung out on heroin or opium—50,000 more than in the US—as addiction moves from granddads down to toddlers in close-knit villages. “I take the food from this child to pay for my opium," says Beg, an addict. "He just stays hungry."

Afghans often get hooked when a family member falls ill, and uses opium as a pain reliever in far-flung regions that sell few others. "Opium is our doctor," says Beg. Most addiction treatment centers are miles away in larger cities, often under-equipped; one has a 2,000-person waiting list and only 30 beds. Which leaves villagers with no way out. "I used to be a rich man," another addict laments. "And then I started smoking. Now I have nothing."
(Read more Afghanistan stories.)