The first household survey of drug use in the region for Pakistan revealed that 6.7 million adults or six per cent of the population aged 16 to 64 have used drugs in the last 12 months.
According to the report Drug Use in Pakistan 2013 released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) prepared with the help of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and the Narcotics Control Division (NCD), the age of the drug users is between 25 and 39 years.
Presenting the report, Cesar Guedes, representative UNODC, Pakistan, said of the drug users, 78 per cent were men while 22 per cent were women. Women tended to use tranquillisers, sedatives and painkillers, or prescription drugs but which are easily available.
Of the 6.7 million users, 4.25 million were drug dependent. Charas, a resin obtained from marijuana was used by four million people and heroin by 860,000. In addition injecting drug users numbered 430,000.
A challenge for Pakistan is the very limited treatment centres, especially for women, he said. With a high number of drug dependents, treatment and specialist intervention was available to less than 30,000 users a year.
While poppy is grown in Afghanistan drugs are trafficked through Pakistan.
A lot of the heroin and opiates are found here because it is at a crossroads of a big complicated business network as it goes to Europe, Asia and North America.
Part of the shipments stay in the country, he said. There was a surge of 36 per cent in opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan from 1994 to 2013 and Pakistan was one of the many transiting countries as 40 per cent of that yield went through it.
Pakistan is among 15 countries with high prevalence of HIV and there is a rise in the number of people who inject drugs. In 2005, 11 per cent of drug users were HIV positive but this number had risen to almost 40 per cent of the 430,000 who injected drugs in 2011.
A majority of the population doesn’t have any idea about the risk of sharing needles and women also entered prostitution to make money to buy drugs, Mr. Guedes said.
The report said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have the highest levels of dependence.
It also called for wide-ranging policy changes to prevent drug abuse, training of professionals and HIV prevention apart from increased support of existing supply and demand reduction measures.
Over 62,000 interviews were conducted for the survey.
With 74 per cent of the world’s poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, Pakistan was a victim as drugs were routed through here, said Mohammed Shahid, Director-General, Planning and Monitoring unit of the Ministry of Narcotics Control.