Iraq’s drug habit is a threat to its stability

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MIDDLE-EAST MONITOR)

 

Iraq’s drug habit is a threat to its stability

Image an Iraqi hospital with wounded patients [file photo]

Iraqi hospital with wounded patients [File photo]

Inside Baghdad’s Ibn Rushd hospital are wards populated by male patients, old and young, battling drug and substance addictions. The hospital provides recovery services, but the misery of sufferers is kept out of sight and few possess the faith to let their tales be heard. The lasting imprint of wars, old and continuing, potentiates these habits. As a relief from suffering and with the degeneration of once sturdy belief systems, hundreds and thousands have turned to hard drugs.

A cauldron of illicit drugs covers all 14 of Iraq’s provinces with narcotics most visible in Basra where methamphetamine has emerged as a local staple. Some place the usage of meth here — or crystal as it’s known locally — at 62.1 per cent of the country’s consumption, as reports by The New Arab show.

The meth boom in Basra can be explained by the port city’s strategic position as it is able to handle the steady flow of goods and illicit drugs entering the country. Trafficking gangs are not strangers to using Basra as a transit point to sustain the expansion of the narcotics trade in the region.

Gangs in neighbouring Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan have no doubt toyed with the idea of using Iraq as a gateway for drugs consignments that Saddam Hussein’s toppling made possible in 2003. For them, the Iraqi arena is particularly profitable and it’s where drug Czars can capitalise on the need of young people to numb the pain and grief of war. The nightmare this poses is difficult for local security forces to combat as they are split between those aiding and abetting traffickers and those disgraced by the phenomenon but ill-equipped to fight it alone.

In Samawah alone a total of 600 dealers reside in the province according to jurist Wael Abdul Latif. In the decades before 2003 the Iraqi arena was clean of drugs: “one of the very few regional states that could claim that drug abuse was not a problem in society,” security consultant Mustafa Al-Ani expressed years ago, citing “strict laws” and “severe punishment” by the Baath regime as the reason for this. However, the security gap America’s invasion opened up caused a near-complete reversal of the past Al-Ani describes.

Indications of heroin trafficked from Iraq mentioned in the 2015 World Drug Report, speaks of the effectiveness of organised networks that operate along the east-west axis and the weakness of internal security and the inability to patrol Iraq’s unmanned borders.

Read: Investment in Iraq smacks of exploitation; regional big-hitters should open their coffers

Statics on the problem might be inconclusive but the protracted nature of drug abuse confirms predictions made by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in late 2003 that drug trafficking would increase. In Afghanistan opium generates one third of Afghanistan’s economic output, underscoring the need for its continuation and expansion in the minds of local narcotics actors.

Drug gangs are notably active in Iraq’s shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf, where there have been major seizures in the last 13 years. Drug-trafficking gangs enter these cities disguised as pilgrims, distributing heroin, hashish and amphetamine pills from Afghanistan, through Iran. Near weekly seizures are reported locally.

There is no one culprit but a convergence of actors and Iranian, Afghani, Iraqi and Turkish cartels. Shipments from Afghanistan pass through Iran into Iraq, bound for Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and even European markets. Rising levels of drug dependency are also felt in Jordan, with the entry of hashish and opium. Jordan’s public security directorate (PSD), as quoted by the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (2006), conceded that 28 seizures at the Iraqi border occurred in 2005.

These menacing developments cannot be divorced from pervasive corruption and the rise of international terrorism, both of which are fed by drug-related proceeds. Expansive illicit networks are also working to satisfy multiple demands. Captagon tablets to enhance battle performance, intoxicants for Gulf-bound expat and local communities in the region, prescription drug abuse to feed the habits of Iraqi soldiers as reported in The New York Times in 2008, and above all else, the need for hard cash.

A US State Department report from 2013 rued Iraq’s leadership for failure to “devote significant resources to drug cases,” but unverified images and Twitter posts allege that Iraq’s special forces were dispatched last weekend to southern Iraq to combat the drug trade in southern Iraq.

Read: IRGC uses crack epidemic as a means of destroying resistance among Ahwazis

The funds needed to build public rehabilitation services are lacking and rarely considered; it is a priority eclipsed by defence spending. The high potential for abuse of certain drugs, for example meth, will crush the educational potential of Iraq’s millennials.

“Meth of course boosts dopamine levels and gives users a certain rush – the bigger problem are withdrawal symptoms. Addiction happens very quickly and weaning yourself is not without numerous challenges,” Dr Usama, director of Ibn Rushd rehabilitation hospital told Sumaria news.

Relapse, he added, is as much of an uphill struggle as the addiction and threatens to render an entire generation inoperative at a time when their contribution to national growth has never been needed more.

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Australia Seizes Huge Drugs Haul From China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

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Australia seizes huge drugs haul from China

AUSTRALIAN police have seized 903 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine smuggled from China inside boxes of hollow floorboards — the largest haul of the illicit drug in Australia, officials said yesterday. methamp

Law enforcement agencies valued the seizure, mostly found in a Melbourne warehouse in February, at almost A$900 million (US$680 million).

Two Australian men, aged 53 and 36, have been charged with commercial drug trafficking and face life in prison if convicted, police said. A search is underway for another two suspects in Melbourne.

Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan described the concealment of the drug inside 70 boxes of wooden floorboards as “quite complex, quite unique.”

Gaughan said police knew the identity of the syndicate that supplied the drug, best known as ice. He would not be more specific than to say the drug originated from somewhere in Asia.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan praised Australia’s cooperation with China’s National Narcotics Control Bureau which he said had stopped 7.5 tons of drugs from reaching Australian streets. Australia was the only Western country that had a joint taskforce with the Chinese bureau based in Guangzhou.

“It is a very serious blow to organized crime around the country,” Keenan said of the latest seizure.

Australia’s drug users pay up to 80 times the price the drug would fetch in China, Keenan said.

Australia’s previous largest haul of ice was almost 880 kilograms seized in Sydney in November 2014. The country’s largest seizure of cocaine was in February when a yacht was intercepted with 1.4 tons of the drug.

AG Jeff Sessions Proves Without Any Doubt That He Is A Total Idiot Concerning Marijuana

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

Jeff Sessions Says Marijuana Is Only ‘Slightly Less Awful’ Than Heroin. Science Says He’s Wrong

Updated: 3:36 PM Eastern | Originally published: 2:42 PM Eastern
TIME Health
For more, visit TIME Health.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in remarks prepared for delivery this week that he believes marijuana is “only slightly less awful,” than heroin.

“I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable,” reads his prepared statement Wednesday during an appearance with local and federal law enforcement officials in Richmond, Va. “I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana — so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”

Sessions veered from the script and did not say marijuana is “only slightly less awful” during his speech, though it remains in the remarks on the Department of Justice website. Scientists who study marijuana disagree with his position.

The Story Behind the Viral Photograph of Opioid Victims
The East Liverpool, Ohio police department decided to share on social media a picture of a couple overdosed and passed out in a car with a young boy in the backseat. Publishing the photo, say local law enforcement, was the city’s cry for help.

“The statement flies in the face of the science,” said Dr. Donald Abrams, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California San Francisco, who has studied the health effects of marijuana. “No one has died from an overdose of cannabis. There’s abundant evidence that it is a useful intervention for chronic pain, and we may see it’s useful in harm reduction.”

In the United States, more than half-a-million people have died from drug overdoses from 2000 to 2015, and currently an estimated 91 people die every day from an opioid overdose.

In January, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a committee review of all research on the health impacts of cannabis since 1999, and reported that there’s substantial evidence to suggest marijuana can help people dealing with chronic pain — and that it could be an alternative to opioids. (Abrams served on the committee.) A 2015 analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported a 30% or more reduction in pain from cannabinoids — compounds from cannabis — compared to a placebo. Studies suggest cannabinoids interact with receptors in pain activity centers located in the brain and spinal cord, and may have anti-inflammatory effects.

Whether marijuana can help someone overcome an opioid addiction is unknown, but research suggests that states that have legalized medical marijuana have experienced drops in opioid-related deaths. In a 2014 report, Dr. Marcus Bachhuber, an assistant professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, found that states with legal medical marijuana experienced 25% fewer prescription drug overdose deaths compared to states where medical marijuana is not legal.

“For some patients with chronic pain, medical marijuana should be an option,” Bachhuber said. “Anecdotally, I’ve seen patients cut down on use of opioids when they start using medical marijuana.”

In the U.S., marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse. Many researchers argue that classification isn’t supported by evidence, and that it makes marijuana harder to study. While opioid addiction tends to be long-term and difficult to successfully overcome, a 2015 study found that after three years, 67% of people that could be diagnosed with cannabis use disorder no longer met the criteria.

“I’ve been a physician for almost 40 years and I’ve never admitted a patient for complications from cannabis use,” Abrams said. “The number of patients we see with problems with use of alcohol, heroin, and methamphetamine is enormous. [Sessions’] statement is unfortunate and uninformed.”