Saturday, July 29, 2006

AFGHANISTAN: Drug abuse on the rise in Helmand

LASHKAR GAH, 27 July (IRIN) - Halima's drug addiction started with a toothache. "Some of my relatives told me to put a piece of opium in my mouth to relieve the pain. After a while I soon became addicted to this evil," the 30-year-old mother-of-four said as she sat in a long queue of women waiting for treatment at a drug addiction clinic in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand. Helmand, the largest opium-producing province in a country that produces nearly 90 percent of the world's illicit opium, has seen a steady increase in addiction. "It [opium] made me so weak and sluggish," mother-of-six Jamila, 35, said. "Even my children have become fed up with me so I decided to end this misery and seek treatment at this clinic. The doctors here are so kind and helpful and their medicine has changed my whole perspective on life." The 20-bed clinic, founded in June by the Welfare Association for Development of Afghanistan (WADAN), an NGO in Lashkar Gah, is struggling to cope with the demand.

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