11 December Reuters

Afghan war leads to jump in price of drugs in Iran


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The price of illegal drugs have shot up in Iran since U.S. attacks on neighbouring Afghanistan began two months ago, due to a severe shortage in supply, Iranian drug enforcement officials said on Monday.

Iran, on a major drug smuggling route from Afghanistan to the West, is waging a war against trafficking, seizing 90 percent of all raw opium and 45 percent of all heroin and morphine confiscated worldwide last year.

But with high unemployment and few activities open to young people in the strict Islamic Republic, there is also a large domestic drug problem with some two million addicts and casual users in Iran out of a population of about 65 million. "I confirm the rise of drug prices," an anti-drug campaign official told Reuters. "It is a market based on supply and demand, so when the supply decreases and the demand remains the same, naturally the price increases."

Before the United States began its military campaign in Afghanistan on October 7, one kilogram of opium sold for around $1,000 in Iran. That price has now doubled, drug experts said. The street price of heroin meanwhile, has gone up by two- and-a-half times, they said. "Drug smuggling is a business, although it is prohibited, like other businesses it is affected by war," the official said. "We tightened security along our border with Afghanistan and this is a reason for the drugs price rise in Iran."

In response to the lower supply, dealers are increasingly cutting, or mixing, drugs with other products leading to a sharp rise in narcotic-related deaths. "Now it is more difficult to find drugs and it is more expensive than before, so drug smugglers mix excrement with opium and chalk powder with heroin to reduce costs which causes the death of drug addicts," said the official.

More than 60 drug addicts have died in the capital Tehran in the past six weeks, newspapers said. "We feel pity for the drug addicts who are dying, but at the same time we wish that one day, because of this price increase, nobody would be able to buy drugs." Iran frequently executes by hanging people caught dealing or smuggling drugs.

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