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8676Alcohol and Drugs: Iran's Drugs Fight

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  • Zafar Khan
    Jul 5, 2008
      Iran's Drugs Fight
      IslamOnline.net & Newspapers
      Fri. Jun. 27, 2008


      CAIRO — Ali blew out a candle on a small round cake, celebrating the first anniversary of become drug free.
      "I was in an awful condition," Ali told the International Herald Tribune on Friday, June 27.

      The 31-year-old, who has a wife and child, was an opium and alcohol addict for 12 years.

      "I reached a state that I smashed our furniture and threw our television out of the window."

      Ali is among more than 800 drug addicts being treated at a free treatment center in the capital Tehran.

      According to government estimates, there are more than one million Iranian drug addicts. Some estimates put the number at 10 million.

      To fight the alarming phenomenon, the government has financed and encouraged the expansion of free treatment centers to help addicts to quit.

      There are now 600 centers providing drug treatment in addition to 1,250 centers offering methadone, free needles and other services for addicts who are not ready to quit, including food and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

      Posters are also seen at schools and television encouraging people to quit addiction and seek treatment.

      "We have realized that an addict is a social reality," Muhammad-Reza Jahani, the vice president for the Committee Combating Drugs, said.

      "We don't want to fight addicts; we want to fight addiction. We need to manage addiction."

      According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Iran has been one of the most supportive country of drug treatment.

      The Iranian government seizes more illicit opiates than any other country and burns tons of confiscated drugs on a ceremony year-on-year.


      Opium addiction has deep cultural roots in Iran.

      "Opium in our culture is like Champagne in France," said Dr. Ali Alavi, with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

      "Many use it for entertainment."

      Many Iranians consider opium as an effective painkiller.

      In many cities, a bride brings the equipment for smoking opium as part of her dowry.

      Many drug addicts start by smoking opium occasionally, and move on to heroin and other opium-based narcotics after becoming dependent.

      "My sister is married to a drug dealer, and he told me that crack was not addictive," said Samira, 21, who has been smoking heroin – locally known as crack -- for four years.

      "I have to smoke at least every two hours now."

      The vast amount of opium is being brought into Iran from neighboring Afghanistan, which produces more than 93 percent of the world's illicit narcotics markets, according to UNODC estimates.

      To fight drug trafficking, Iran spent $6 billion in 2006 to build a wall 13 feet high, with barbed wire, and a trench 13 feet deep and 16 feet wide along a third of the country’s border with Afghanistan.

      Some Iranian officials accuse their arch foe the United States of being responsible for the drug smuggling into Iran.

      "We think the Americans want to keep this source of infection near us," said Jahani, the vice president for the Committee Combating Drugs.

      "Because of the animosity between Iran and the U.S., this is the best way to keep our resources and forces occupied."

      Why a glass of wine can do more harm than you realise
      Published Date: 21 May 2008


      IT is an image which strikes horror into the hearts of most parents – teenagers in the street knocking back bottles of Buckfast. But how many parents realise the wine they drink at home may be every bit as powerful as the drink of choice of young yobs?

      While Buckfast contains 15 per cent alcohol, many of the nation's favourite wines are now every bit as strong.

      Take Papavero Primitivo 2006 – the best-selling red for one leading internet wine seller, Direct Wines Ltd. It contains 14 per cent alcohol. Some popular wines, such as Australian Zinfandel, a particularly robust red at 16 per cent, contain more alcohol than Buckfast.

      It highlights a problem which is causing growing concern among health professionals – widespread ignorance about the amount of alcohol we actually drink.

      A YouGov poll released this week has found that many who consider themselves moderate drinkers are unaware of the high levels of alcohol in their drinks, because measures are getting larger while beers and wines are getting stronger.

      The poll comes after the Scottish Government warned alcohol misuse is costing Scotland £2.25 billion a year – more than double previous estimates – and is hitting business, the NHS, social services, police and courts.

      While Zinfandel is at the higher end of the scale most bottles available in any supermarket or wine merchant are around 13 per cent.

      David Henderson, a wine merchant of 25 years' experience and owner of Henderson's Wines in Morningside, is finding it increasingly difficult to find bottles of a more moderate strength.

      He said: "I regularly get comments from discerning, educated wine drinkers who feel that they can't handle a bottle of 14 per cent.

      "Yet I've been on wine-tasting trips to meet growers who say most people are only interested in wine that packs as much alcohol in the bottle as possible.

      "In my experience people just have no idea how much alcohol they are drinking, and there are quite a few misconceptions out there. Some people believe white isn't as strong as red, or that a bottle of rosé is less potent than a full-bodied wine."

      The confusion is heightened for some shoppers as many of the most popular websites selling wine don't provide information about the alcoholic strength.

      Jack Law, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said growing numbers of middle-aged drinkers risk damaging their health by drinking too much at home.

      He added: "Older drinkers may drink at home rather than in pubs or clubs, and it's easy to get into the habit of having a few glasses of wine each night to 'relax'. Home measures tend to be far bigger than pub measures so a vodka, whisky or gin at home could be the equivalent of a double or treble in a bar. It's worth remembering that it's adults who are more likely to be hospitalised or attend a counselling service because of their drinking."

      Tom Wood, chairman of Action on Alcohol and Drugs in Edinburgh, says many people believe there's only one unit of alcohol in a glass of wine, a pint of beer or a measure of spirits. He says: "There is indeed only one unit of alcohol in a glass of wine – provided it's a 125ml glass of wine with eight per cent alcohol.

      "However, glasses of wine are now usually served in 250ml measures of between 12 and 14 per cent, so a glass of wine is now around three units of alcohol.

      "It's important to educate people on these points. Some people may be under the impression that it is not that bad to have two or three glasses of wine regularly.

      "The health service has now picked up on the fact that a lot of people are sleepwalking into serious health problems.

      "These people may not be falling down in the gutter in a pool of vomit, but their health is being eroded in a very quiet and insidious way. They are risking long-term damage to their vital organs – including the liver, heart and cardiovascular system – and may pay the price through premature ageing and failing liver function."

      Dalkeith GP Dr Dean Marshall, chairman of the BMA's Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said the problem is made worse by patients who misrepresent their alcohol intake in the patient surveys they take when registering with GPs.

      He said: "According to these surveys I've never met anyone who smokes more than 20 a day, but this is quite clearly not the case and these surveys also reveal a similar ignorance about alcohol.

      "What some people regard as one unit of alcohol is in fact two or three, so people may not necessarily be lying about their intake but may be unaware of how much they are consuming.

      "For this reason the Department of Health in England is going to start paying GPs to carry out in-depth alcohol surveys, and is giving them the resources to compile the information more effectively.

      "In Scotland a lot of money is poured into alcohol programmes but because there are so many groups focusing on alcohol, and receiving funds, the Scottish Government believes the message is getting through, whereas I think the money may be better spent by empowering GPs to carry out these kinds of studies."

      Action urged to cut big rise in heavy drinking
      · Hospital admissions more than double over 10 years
      · Doctors' leader demands end to discount alcohol
      Sarah Boseley, health editor The Guardian, Friday May 23, 2008


      Tougher measures to discourage people from damaging their health through alcohol abuse were called for yesterday as official statistics showed that the number of hospital admissions caused by heavy drinking has more than doubled since 1995.

      The British Liver Trust warned that alcohol-induced health problems could become out of control. "Measures taken to curb this worrying trend just aren't working so far, according to these statistics," said Alison Rogers, chief executive of the trust. "This is set to hit England hard over the following years because liver disease can take up to 10 years to develop."

      The NHS Information Centre said 207,800 people were admitted to hospital in 2006-07 with conditions caused directly or indirectly by drinking alcohol, such as psychosis or liver disease, compared with 93,500 in 1995-96.

      The number of alcohol-related deaths also rose sharply, by 19% in five years. In 2006, there were 6,500 - of which two-thirds were men - compared with 5,500 in 2001. The most common cause of death was alcoholic liver disease.

      While the number of school pupils who said they had never had an alcoholic drink rose from 39% in 2001 to 45% in 2006, those who did drink drank more. They consumed on average 11.4 units a week.

      "Alcohol is placing an increasing burden right across the NHS, from the GP surgery to the hospital bed," said Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre. "These rises paint a worrying picture about the relationship between the population and the bottle."

      Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, called for an end to cheap supermarket drink. "Much of this damage is fuelled by deep discounting of alcohol in supermarkets and off-licences, and this should be the focus of government action," he said.

      Dawn Primarolo, the public health minister, said: "We are working harder than ever to reduce alcohol-related hospital admissions and to help those who regularly drink too much or are increasingly dependent on alcohol.

      "The NHS spends £217m a year on specialist alcohol treatment and I have just launched a £6m campaign to make sure people know their units and know how much they're drinking."

      Emily Frith from Turning Point, a social care organisation, said: "These figures are deeply worrying and the issue is wider than the rising numbers ending up in hospital with alcohol-related problems.

      "As a society we are failing the people who turn to A&E for help. They need rapid access to the right treatment, to prevent them turning up to the same hospital again and again. Yet ... dependent drinkers in England face a wait of up to a year to access any form of structured treatment."

      The Liberal Democrat health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said the figures showed the government's alcohol policy had failed.

      Alcohol admissions to hospital up 7% in a year
      Thursday, 22 May 2008


      The number of hospital admissions linked to alcohol has risen 7 per cent in one year and more than doubled in 12 years, figures showed today.

      Official data showed there were 207,788 NHS hospital admissions in England in 2006/07 with a primary or secondary diagnosis related to alcohol.

      This figure, relating to all age groups, has more than doubled from the 93,459 recorded in 1995/96.

      It is also up 7 per cent on the 193,637 figure for 2005/06.

      The data was released by the NHS Information Centre for health and social care.

      A breakdown showed there were 57,142 NHS hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis specifically related to alcohol in 2006/07.

      This number has risen by 52 per cent since 1995/96. Of these admissions, 4,888 (9 per cent) involved youngsters under the age of 18.

      In 2007, 112,267 prescription items for drugs for treating alcohol dependency were also prescribed by doctors, the data showed.

      This is an increase of 20 per cent since 2003, when 93,241 items were prescribed.

      Today's report showed that, in 2007, 69 per cent of Britons said they had heard of the Government guidelines on alcohol consumption.

      Of these, 40 per cent said that they did not know what the recommendations were.

      A total of 38 per cent of adults in 2007 had seen units of alcohol displayed on labels of alcoholic drinks, compared with 23 per cent in 2000.

      A spokesman for Alcohol Concern said: "The new figures showing a rise in alcohol-related hospital admissions confirm everything we've heard from the frontline staff who deal with the after effects of heavy drinking.

      "What is however particularly dispiriting is the news that the number of people who aren't familiar with the recommended limits has actually gone up.

      "The Government needs to shape a response that meets the challenges thrown up by this bulletin.

      "Information campaigns are a great first step, but we also need urgent investment in treatment systems that help steer problem drinkers away from harmful behaviour before they develop chronic conditions."