There are no accurate figures on the extent of the problem, but
it is definitely serious, admitted Iraq's interim Health Minister Alaeddin Abdul Sahib Adwan. AFP
BAGHDAD - Iraqi health officials are worried about a surge of drug addicts in Iraq and accuse neighbouring countries such as Iran of supplying narcotics through the country's porous borders.
There are no accurate figures on the extent of the problem, but it is definitely serious, admitted Iraq's interim Health Minister Alaeddin Abdul Sahib Adwan.
"According to the information that we have received, the problem of drug abuse is becoming endemic in Iraq, particularly among teenagers and the young," he told a news conference in Baghdad on Tuesday.
"Iraq is surrounded by countries that have a history of producing and commercialising illegal drugs, such as Afghanistan, Iran and certain Gulf states, where at the moment the borders are badly guarded," he said.
The known number of declared drug addicts in Iraq is 2,029, with most of them concentrated in the south and the centre, said a health ministry official dealing with the fight against drugs, Siruane Kamel.
There are 286 registered addicts in the southern province of Maysan who receive treatment at clinics, while some five percent of the province's population use drugs, the officials said.
"In the central province of Karbala, there are 679 drug adicts who are registed at clinics and four of them have died," he noted.
Kamel blamed "the Iranians who make drugs to be used by pilgrims in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala."
The two cities are favourite destinations for the Shiite Muslim faithful.
Lieutenent Colonel Raad Mahdi, who is in charge of a ministry programme to combat drug abuse, charged that, "Iran is the principle source of the drugs that circulate around the south and centre of Iraq."
A lack of border security has allowed enormous quantities of drugs to filter into Iraq, he said, proposing a series of measure that must be implimented.
Security measures at Iraq's extensive borders need to be tightened, while police at the borders should be specially trained at combatting drugs.
He also appealed for money and material to help support an anti-drug awareness campaign.
"We want to benefit from the experience of the West and exchange information with our neighbouring countries to fight drug abuse," said Mahdi.
For his part, the health minister lamented a lack of rehabilitation centres in Iraq, while noting that it was imperative to stem the flow of illegal drugs in the country.
"We will start by creating a data bank," he declared.