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Drug addiction grows among women in Pakistan

Experts advise tackling social problems first, then addiction

By Amna Nasir Jamal


LAHORE, Pakistan – Drug abuse is nothing new, but Pakistan is facing a two-pronged problem.

First, addicts are getting hooked earlier. The mean age of initial heroin use, according to the last National Drug Abuse Survey (2002-03), has fallen to 22 from 26.

Second, more women are using and the country refuses to take seriously the social factors that contribute to this worsening picture.

Drug addiction can start in school. Girls at one private institution used hashish in the restroom while a reporter was there. A headmistress of one girls’ college in Lahore expelled a group of her students for possessing and using narcotics on the premises.

“The problem of drug addiction among women cannot be separated from other aspects of their social conditioning … such as racism, sexism and poverty … that are essential to understanding drug abuse in women”, said Tasneem Nazir, a clinical psychologist at Lahore’s Mayo Hospital. S

he said teenage girls are likely to abuse substances in order to lose weight, relieve stress or boredom, improve their mood, reduce sexual inhibitions, self-medicate depression and increase confidence. Women who seek treatment for alcohol and drug problems report a connection among domestic violence, childhood abuse, and substance abuse.

One woman said she had suffered from physical, mental and financial abuse before turning to drugs.

“I don’t know why I didn’t realise it”, the woman, 42, said of her addiction, but “I didn’t deserve what my husband put me through”.

Nazir said that to declare addiction openly is to sign a social death warrant.

“Many addicted women refuse to go into drug rehabilitation programmes. They are outpatients because of the shame and stigma attached to substance dependence and addiction. They cannot stay in rehabilitation centres for cultural reasons and go only for medicine and advice”, said Dr. Mahmooda Aftab, a clinical psychologist running a rehabilitation centre.

Nazir suggested that the way to remedy the problem is to address violence and sexual abuse, unsafe housing, unemployment, stereotyping of sexual roles, and the lack of health care and child care, all of which contribute to the depression and hopelessness linked to substance abuse by women.

Brig. Sajjad Ahmed Bakshi, force commander of the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF), Punjab, told Central Asia Online that though information on women’s drug use is limited, drug addiction has increased steadily among girls and women.

“The youth of today are a pathetic sight", he said. "Greater attention is being paid to create awareness among the people about the dangers of drug abuse and the ways to avoid it”.

Bakshi said women, especially young girls belonging to “elite backgrounds”, are becoming addicts.

Some women are not aware of the drugs they are taking. Doctors prescribe a “medicine”, and some incurious users know little about the side effects.

“There is no restriction on buying (painkillers or tranquilisers)”, he said.

Many women have been taking such medicines for months or years and have become dependent on them.

“We came to the doctor for treatment. The doctor prescribed these medicines, which I used to sleep well and to ward off worries”, said Hajra, a rehabilitation centre patient whose name was changed to ensure privacy. “I didn't know the medicines used prescribed by the doctor are poison”.

Bakshi said the ANF has established wards at eight government hospitals to provide free treatment. But most patients don’t know where they can get help, either before or after the addiction takes hold.

“It is important for women to have the knowledge and skills to be a positive force in confronting this problem, especially in drug prevention”, Bakshi said. “It is an imperative of this time that all sections of society combine their efforts to eradicate drugs from our society”.

He suggested that for complete eradication, systematic education and constant community support need to exist.

“It is essential to … implement awareness programmes effectively and intelligently", he said. "Doing so would lead to a better and (more) prosperous future for each member of the society”.

Society’s view on addiction also needs to change, according to concerned observers.

“The barriers to treatment for women must be addressed because most programmes are based on male-oriented models that are not geared to the needs of women", Mahmooda said. "The need of the time is programmes must be designed to overcome the current barriers to women’s access to and participation in treatment”.

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Reader Comments

  • this information is just who is reachable believe me situation is more worst

    March 7, 2014 @ 11:03:28PM Muhammad Mansoor
  • In my opinion, in order for Afghanistan to prevent the distribution of drugs, there has to be a constant fight with the following two main reasons for becoming addicted to drugs: 1. there should be no members of the family and household addicted to any kind of drugs, including cigarettes, opium, and etc. 2. There should be no drug addicts amongst one’s friends. Otherwise, they will completely ruin the future of that individual. If someone doesn’t want to become addicted to any kind of drug, one should stay away from both of the aforementioned factors. This way, God willing, he will not become addicted to such vice.

    May 5, 2012 @ 09:05:50AM abdulhakim
  • "Experts advise tackling social problems first, then addiction" ??? WHAT experts... Addiction is NOT a bad habbit. It is a recognised Illness. A disease. Do these so called experts know about that ? Can these "experts" cure CANCER with tackling social problems ?? How naive.. My hopes for the best for all those suffering from this illness.

    April 8, 2012 @ 04:04:24AM Babar Siddiqi, Addiction Therapist/Coach
  • i believe that pakistani schools,colleges,and other resources should provide more infor on drugs and make kids aware of how bad these things are for them. i read an article where it shows k even medical students use drugs in pakistan and are unaware of its effect.

    November 21, 2011 @ 03:11:00PM mary
  • Drug addiction is very bad habit we should try to aviod this bad habit.

    April 23, 2011 @ 03:04:00PM Amir abbas
  • Drug addiction is happening in all the socities and in Pakistan specially in girls colleges it is happening .In Pakistan and in Lahore it is also obsevred in eliete class and those colleges in which youngs of this class are studying are taking interest in theis hobby deliberately.girls of eliete class use this for the intertainment and during enjoyment time.They use this with their friends,classfellows and with their collegues mostly in resort places.

    March 4, 2011 @ 12:03:00PM kashan
  • in my view the best way to avoid drug addicion never take a drud at all

    February 26, 2011 @ 03:02:00AM dr asghar
  • we should launch awareness program in colleges and among youth about drugs. govt should placed bill board and should start TV program on.

    January 15, 2011 @ 08:01:00AM asimmir
  • i am working in drugs addiction centre for last 5 years in russia, now on holidays for two years in islamabad, any body needs home treatment for drugs addiction i can offer them my services

    November 24, 2010 @ 01:11:00AM Dr.mazhar ali
  • Pakistan\'s real enemy is not india it\'s Afghanistan who brought arms & drugs in our country. This silent enemy destroyed Pakistan & Pakistan always looked towards india as an enemy. India does all of its takhreeb kaaree thru Kandhar & Jalalabad which obviously states thats Afghanistan is an enemy of Pakistan.If we kick afghans out of Pakistan 50% of our problems will be solved . Rest of the 50% will be solved by hanging Asif Zardari & Nawaz Sharif.....

    November 2, 2010 @ 08:11:00AM salmankhan
  • A Good mother makes a civilised society,as mother is female.These females need an urgent attention of Goverment to treat them and save our future nation.

    April 17, 2010 @ 12:04:00PM Dr.M.Riaz
  • Very good article.

    March 16, 2010 @ 09:03:00PM Joe
  • International community must invent drugs to destroy popyfields as soon as possible.It would improve situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan .

    March 16, 2010 @ 08:03:00PM Jahongir(Joe)
  • The government of Pakistan must give more attention to this matter as it can cause a great devastation to the health and the country as well.

    March 9, 2010 @ 03:03:00AM shaneY
  • A well conceived and thought provoking article. Try to interact with real addicts who would also inform you about the background to their dilemma. well done and keep it up

    March 6, 2010 @ 10:03:00AM Bakhshi
  • all ths happend due to the negligence of their parents.they give them excess money which destroy them.

    March 4, 2010 @ 07:03:00AM amin bashir
  • Today is a seminar on drugs in Pakistan at LUMS , it is very helpful.

    March 4, 2010 @ 12:03:00AM Fiaz
  • It is the matter of serious concern.Every Healthy is responsible to come forward and play the Role for a healthy PAKISTAN...

    March 3, 2010 @ 07:03:00AM Arshad Ullah.
  • It is the matter of serious concern.Every Healthy is responsible to come forward and play the Role for a healthy PAKISTAN...

    March 3, 2010 @ 07:03:00AM Arshad Ullah.