Drug addiction has been a problem in Afghanistan for years. The country is considered the world’s largest producer of opium and heroin. Decades of war and persistent poverty have fueled ranks of addicts in the country, impacting all parts of society.
The economic crisis deepened in Afghanistan after the takeover of the Taliban in 2021. Post-takeover, foreign donors cut off aid, causing further economic hardships.
Many struggling rural families in Afghanistan rely on opium poppy crops for cash. Poppies are the source of sap which is refined into heroin.
Afghanistan accounts for 80 percent of the global output of opium and heroin, according to the UN.
In April 2022, the Taliban announced a crackdown on farmers planting poppies.
“Following a decree issued by the Supreme Leader of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [Hibatullah Akhundzada], all Afghans are informed that from now on cultivation of poppy has been strictly prohibited across the country.” Said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban government spokesperson in April, 2022 at a press conference.
The Taliban has outlawed the trade before in 2000, when they were previously in power. But the Taliban started relying on cash from poppies while they were fighting foreign forces.
There is little evidence that the Taliban is now able or willing to enforce the ban, experts say. Targeting the opium trade puts the group at risk of provoking a domestic backlash. There have been a few recorded incidents of the Taliban destroying poppy crops.
“If the Taliban government stops this poppy cultivation, let them help us, let the world help us to be self-sufficient. We don’t like this crop either. We work this season here out of compulsion. Twenty years of war have passed in this country, and every household is in debt, unable to support its children. If this crop stops, we will have a problem.” said Abdul Rahman, a resident of Zhari district in Kandahar to the AFP after the Taliban’s announcement.
According to experts, nearly 11 percent of Afghanistan’s population are drug users.
The Taliban arrests users and forces them into overcrowded drug treatment facilities. Many rehabilitation centers have also shut down due to the lack of international aid.
For more, check out our exclusive content on CGTN Now and subscribe to our weekly newsletter, The China Report.