Methamphetamine use soars in Iran as lifestyles speed up

Mon Dec 8, 2014 12:32am EST
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By Babak Dehghanpisheh

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Women in headscarves and men in tatty clothes puff on a glass pipe as smoke swirls around their faces. The pictures published by Iranian media and blogs in recent months are a sign of a new drug epidemic: shishe, or methamphetamine.

Shishe means "glass" in Farsi, a reference to the appearance of the drug in some of its purest forms.

In less than a decade, methamphetamine use has skyrocketed in Iran to the point where now about 345,000 Iranians are considered addicts, according to official statistics.

Seizures of methamphetamine soared 128 percent between 2008 and 2012, topping all other countries in the region, according to figures compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Last year alone, the government of Iran confiscated 3.6 tonnes of shishe.

A top official from the Iran Drug Control Headquarters said last year that shishe could be found in Tehran in "less than five minutes," according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency.

Shishe addicts in Iran are mostly urban, middle class and young, experts say. Notably, there are a large number of women who abuse shishe, too.

One of the main reasons why shishe use has spread quickly in Iran is a lack of information about the drug, which has led casual users to believe, erroneously, that it is not addictive, experts say.

Struggling university students have begun abusing it to stay up longer and try to boost their performance in school. Women have been sold the drug in beauty salons with the promise that it will help them lose weight, according to local media reports.   Continued...