Drug Abuse Scenario in Pakistan by Irfan Haider, Psychologist

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Drug Abuse Scenarios in Pakistan

Drug Abuse: Drug abuse is an intense desire to obtain, and use, increasing amount of one or more substances. Drug abuse is a generic term for the use of any drug, including alcohol, tablets and cigarettes.

Drug use in Pakistan a brief history: Pakistan has always confronted with a drug abuse problem since its existence and today, the country has the largest heroin consumer market in the south-west Asia region. While the entire region suffers from the drug trade in South Asia, Pakistan seems to be its worst victim. After independence in 1947, Pakistan became a major exporter of heroin in the 1980s. The major consequence of this has been a significant increase in domestic consumption of heroin in Pakistan. As a proportion of drug abusers, heroin users increased from 7.5 percent in 1983 to a shocking 51 percent in 1993. Since then Heroin use has reached epidemic proportions in Pakistan affecting nearly every socio-economic group.

Recent Drug use Situation: The most recent drug use data available in Pakistan was collected through National Assessment of Problem Drug e Use in 2006. This study was conducted in 23 districts to update information on the patterns and trends of problem drug use in the country. The study estimated around 628,000 opioid users in Pakistan, 77 percent of who were heroin users (484,000). The highest prevalence of opioid use is in Baluchistan, followed by KPK, Punjab and Sind. However in terms of absolute numbers with an estimated number of 200,000 the highest number of opioid users is in Punjab. Among the opioid users, cannabis was most commonly the first substance ever used, usually at an age of around 18 years. A total number of 125,000 injecting drug users were estimated in the country. An alarming trend is that the estimated number of injecting drug users in Pakistan has doubled since 2000.

Factors responsible for increase of drug abuse in Pakistan

  • Increased availability of drugs at low prices.
  • Lack of jobs and economic frustration.
  • Lack of quality education, peer pressure and negligence of parents.
  • Lack of drug education within the family and in educational institutions.

Drug of choice

  • Hashish (cannabis) is the most commonly used substance
  • Sedatives and Tranquilizers
  • Heroin
  • Opium
  • Injecting drug use
  • Ecstasy
  • Solvent Abuse among Street Children

Heroin Users:

Heroin remained the most popular drug being abused by 77% or approximately 484,000. These findings mirror those of Drug Abuse Assessment undertaken in 2000 (estimated number of heroin users in 2000 drug abuse assessment was 500,000). Given the massive increase of opium and heroin production in neighboring Afghanistan this stability in prevalent rates is a notable achievement.

Age Group: 

The opioid users fall in the age of 15-64 years which is very high rate.

Drug injecting users

  • Over the last one decade the drug abuse problem has become more complicated as the number of IDUs has doubled. There are an estimated 125,000 injecting drug users
  • It is important to note that in the year 2000 the absolute number of injecting drug users in Pakistan was 60,000, which almost doubled in 2006, an alarming trend that needs to be addressed on priority
  • In 1990’s the proportion of injecting users was reported between 2 and 8 percent of opioid users
  • In 2000 injecting was reported among 15 percent (60,000)
  • In 2006 up to 29 percent (125,000) injected drugs

Reasons of starting drugs

  • Influence of friends or peer pressure
  • Social and family stresses
  • Sibling or other family member’s use of drugs
  • To heighten sexual pleasure
  • To overcome frustrations/tragedies
  • As pain medication


Mr. Irfan Haider

M.Phil. Psychology

Govt. College University, Lahore.

Clinical Psychologist at Nishan Rehab Multan.



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