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Kicking the habit

Rahmat Alizada
Inside a small drug treatment center in Ghazni, patients share stories of addiction, love and immigration.
18.07.2014  |  Ghazni

Near the mountains of Day Yak District on the Ali Lala plains, recovering patients from Ghazni province seek treatment for opiate addiction. Although Afghanistan is said to account for a bulk of the world’s opium production, many patients say they developed their habit after emigrating to neighboring Iran.

Located two kilometers from the provincial capital, the hospital has twenty beds and a staff of nine doctors, two of them female. Originally conceived in 2009 as a facility for recovering addicts from the area, the hospital project gained regional status in 2012 after policing efforts eliminated opium production in Ghazni province. The treatment center opened one year ago, financed by the Ministry of Counter Narcotics. Previously, the facility operated as part of the local civilian hospital, which staff say lacked the equipment to treat drug addiction.

Before entering the treatment center, visitors must pass through two police posts, which are there to prevent patients from escaping. Hospital staff complain of a dearth of resources for treating the patients. The hospital lacks recreational facilities, and addicts stay inside their rooms 24 hours a day. The hospital also lacks standardized meals, another requirement for treating recovering addicts.

The patients are first registered by their families, says hospital director Nasrullah Naeemi. “If they agree to the treatment, they will be hospitalized for forty-five days…There are many people who need treatment, but we cannot admit all of them.”

Since 2009, the center has treated around 4,000 patients, one-fifth of them female. But due to war, insecurity, poverty and unemployment, a majority of them fall back into their addiction, Naeemi says.