An Iranian police officer stands behind drugs seized from smugglers near the border with Afghanistan in 2014.
They loiter on pedestrian bridges, puffing on pipes. They squat behind bushes and palm trees in leafy parks to get their fix. Even doctors and nurses are users.
Iran’s drug problem has become a national epidemic, health ministry officials and local doctors say, drawing the poor as well as the affluent, the secular as well as the pious, to an assortment of hard drugs including crystal meth, painkillers, synthetic hallucinogens and heroin and opium trafficked from neighboring Afghanistan.
“No walk of society is immune. Even the sons of Islamic clerics are patients in our clinics,” said Dr. Hasan Razavi, who runs a small rehabilitation center in western Tehran.
he United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime says Iran has one of the gravest addiction crises in the world. Health ministry officials estimate there are 2.2 million drug addicts in this country of 80 million, 2.75% of the population, but doctors who operate some of the hundreds of government-sanctioned rehab clinics nationwide believe the actual figures are higher.