Ever growing poverty and joblessness and resultant despair and hopelessness is pushing Pakistani youth towards drug addiction and every year about 0.6 million new addicts are joining the army of drug addicts.

According to the figures of the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), there are some nine million drug addicts in Pakistan and this strength is growing at the rate of 0.6 million per year. There are around 30 million smokers in Pakistan and as many as 100,000 people die every year of smoking-related diseases. Amongst smokers the number of shisha addicts is on an alarming rise.

Heroin addiction has penetrated all social classes and is now all-pervasive. The country has drug dens - places where people smoke hashish, heroin and other drugs. In Pakistan heroin and hashish are most favourite narcotics followed by alcohol, opium, Bhang, solvent sniffs, cocaine, tranquillisers and anti-depressants.

Total number of heroin addicts is about 1.5 million. There are about 25 to 30 million people whose lives are badly affected by the addiction of their relatives. Peer pressure at school, societal taboos, economic frustrations and lack of healthy recreational outlets are among the major reasons why people, especially the youth, are succumbing to the lure of addictive drugs. Oddly enough, it has been observed that the following two drugs are largely used: heroin and hashish.

According to the gender classification almost 90 per cent of drug addicts are males whereas 10 per cent comprise of the female lot. A vast majority of the new addicts belong to the younger generation who are hooked on narcotics through their friends, casual acquaintances, drug pushers and, sometimes, family members.

The major reason of drug addiction in youth is termed poverty and joblessness. The jobless youth find their refuge in drug addiction. In every locality dozens of youth could be found at garbage dens, dark alleys and other isolated locations using injection-able drugs. To meet their expenses these poor youth commit petty crimes. Growing street crime ratio in cities like Karachi is directly related to growing drug addiction amongst youth.

Experts say poverty and substance abuse go hand in hand. The connection between substance abuse and poverty makes sense. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition defines poverty as “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.”

It is generally agreed that poverty is multidimensional and should be measured not only by income, but also by access to public goods such as education, health care, a safe water supply, and provision of other civic facilities.
Poverty in youth is a global phenomenon. According to World Youth Report 2005 it is estimated that there are some 209 million young people living on less than US$ one a day and around 515 million young people living on less than US$ two a day.

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