Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in Asia



Extent of Drug Abuse

Opium is reported the most abused drug in Iran. Annual abuse is estimated at 0.6 per cent or 350,000 abusers (Workshop 1993).

            Heroin is the next most abused drug, with annual abuse is estimated at 0.2 per cent (U.N. 1992).

            Cannabis abuse is also reported, with an annual prevalence of abuse estimated at nearly 0.1 per cent (U.N. 1989).

Abuser Characteristics

Drug abuse is mainly reported among men, while abuse among women is rare. According to the latest surveys, abuse has increased among drivers, particularly inner-city drivers (U.N. 1990).

            Opium abuse is reported often among middle and older age groups, and farmers (U.N. 1990).

            Heroin abuse is more common among the youth, young businessmen and workers (U.N. 1990).

            Cannabis abuse is more frequent among youths (U.N. 1990).

Regional Variations

Due to the warm and humid climate in the northern provinces, people are reported to have a higher tendency to use opium. More drug dependent abusers are reported in the eastern provinces, which is attributed to their proximity to the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan (U.N. 1992).

            Opium abuse is reported more frequent in the rural areas, heroin abuse is more common in the urban areas, and cannabis abuse is found in both urban and rural population in the eastern provinces (U.N. 1990).


Some decrease was reported in the abuse of opium, heroin and cannabis in 1992. This is attributed to intensive drug control measures which have been adopted; including strengthening the forces in the eastern borders of the country (U.N. 1992) and the implementation of a new law to counter illicit drug traffic (Iran Mission 1991). As a result, no new cases of drug abuse were reported in 1991 (Country Statement 1992).

Mode of intake

Opium, heroin and cannabis are smoked. Opium is also ingested, and heroin is injected and sniffed (U.N. 1990, 1992).


Costs and consequences of drug abuse reported include the economic costs of technical equipment to strengthen the forces along the eastern border, cost for treatment and rehabilitation of abusers, cost of drugs, as well as consequences of non productivity of drug abusers leading to joblessness and the burden of supporting abusers families. All funds are provided by the government (U.N. 1992).



National Strategy

In 1989, the Anti- Narcotics Headquarters was formed under the direct supervision of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Headquarters is comprised of the Public Prosecutor and members of other concerned ministries and its' task is to maintain a coordinated effort on issues of security, judicature and policy making (Workshop 1993).

            Intensive measures in supply reduction have been taken including, the banning of all poppy and cannabis cultivation, strengthening the forces along the eastern border and evacuating local inhabitants that were collaborating with the smugglers. Along the eastern border, Iran has set up disciplinary outposts at 10 km intervals, and between every second outpost an observation tower has also been established (U.N. 1992, Country Statement 1992).


Treaty adherence

Iran is party to the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Demand Reduction Activities

Primary Prevention

Prevention activities include the prohibition of smoking at all levels of the educational system, and measures organized by social and welfare organizations which provide services to adolescents through training centres. The Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) has also established a plan to provide information to students and their parents on how to cope with the problems of drug dependency. Religious groups and sport clubs are also involved in the implementation of prevention programmes. Media campaigns to promote drug prevention have been undertaken with cooperation from health professionals, law enforcement agencies, private companies and members of the Anti- Narcotics Headquarters (U.N. 1992).

            All those who apply for official employment in ministries, organizations and governmental institutes are required to be tested for illegal drugs. Those who are suspected of drug abuse are also tested (U.N. 1992).

Treatment and Rehabilitation

Programmes available for drug abusers include detoxification programmes, drug free counselling, support to families of drug dependent abusers, and acupuncture. Abusers in rehabilitation centres participate in individual or group activities, occupational activities and recreational programmes. Treatment in rehabilitation centres throughout the country are free of charge (U.N. 1992).

            In 1992, 8,534 patients were treated for opiate-type drug abuse (7,859 males), 1,155 abusers were treated for heroin abuse (848 males) and 1,544 abusers were treated for cannabis abuse (1,312 females). A further 1,150 abusers were treated for the abuse of other drugs (966 females) (U.N. 1992). There are 17 drug rehabilitation centres throughout the country, none of which use methadone or other types of drug therapy, under the general control of the Anti- Narcotics Headquarters. The Ministry of Health's Social Welfare Organization is responsible for the day to day management of the centres (Workshop 1993).

            Drug abusers who are arrested are kept in rehabilitation centres. After detoxification, they undergo psychotherapy, vocational and occupational treatment (U.N. 1990).

Supply Reduction Activities

Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences

In 1990, 18,300 persons were arrested for illicit drug traffic (Iran Mission 1991).


During 1990, 20,300 kgs of opium (raw and prepared), 1,800 kg of heroin, 4,500 kg of morphine and 5,200 kg of cannabis (resin) were seized. About 90 per cent of the opium was seized in three provinces adjacent to the eastern border, and 80 per cent of the heroin seizures were made in the eastern and central provinces (Iran Mission 1991).

            In 1991, some 30 tonnes of narcotics were seized of which 8 tonnes was morphine base which is equivalent to 80 tonnes of opium (Country Statement 1992).

Supply Sources of Drugs

Iran has been devoid of poppy and hashish cultivation since its banning by the Revolutionary Council in 1980. There is, however, an influx of opium and heroin from Pakistan and, to a greater extent, from Afghanistan into Iran. A proportion of this opium and heroin finds its way to Europe (Workshop 1993).

References and Notes


** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was not available by 15th of January 1994.

U.N. 1990-1992. Replies to UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaire (1990, 1992). 

Iran Mission 1991. Illicit Drug Situation in Islamic Republic of Iran in 1990. Country Statement by the Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 34th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. 30th April 1991.

Country Statement 1992. Country Statement by the delegate of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 35th Session of the Commission in Narcotic Drugs. 7th April 1992.

Workshop 1993. Workshop of National Focal Points on Drug Abuse, 1993. Drug Abuse Situation in I.R. of Iran and Current Organizations for Demand Reduction, Iran's Country Report. Anti-Narcotics Headquarters, President's Office.