AUSTIN, Texas — According to the Asian Development Bank, 26% of the population in Tajikistan live below the poverty line as of 2019. In an article by the St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, researchers explore one of poverty’s most significant risks or falling into drug usage. According to the article, when the stress of having to pay monthly bills piles up along with the worries of everyday life, many may turn to drugs as an outlet to escape stress. Additionally, drug usage is a possible effect and cause of poverty. When drug usage negatively affects performance at work, it increases the risk of getting fired which makes the person pay for the cost of their living expenses and their addiction. This might lead to even more drug usage before becoming a cycle.
Drug Trafficking in Tajikistan
Tajikistan, which Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and China borders, unfortunately, suffers from a great drug trafficking problem. A 2010 U.N. Report estimated that Tajikistan had the largest contribution of the 90 tons heroin flow “in Central Asia and the Russian Federation” with an estimated 75 to 80 tons. Additionally, 18 to 20 tons of opium originated from Tajikistan in 2010, making the country responsible for half of the opium found in Central Asia that year. In 2021, authorities seized 500 kilograms of hashish, opium and heroin in Tajikistan, making it an ongoing problem.
Poverty and Drug Use in Tajikistan
When looking at poverty in Tajikistan, it can be alarming when more than a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. With Tajikistan being responsible for most of the heroin and opium trade in Central Asia and the Russian Federation in the past decade, it showcases how poverty and drug usage go hand in hand. A 2009 study showed that anywhere from 20,000-30,000 Tajiks inject drugs. This study only references the injection of drugs without other consumption methods. Based on the study information, one can assume that the problem has gotten worse due to an increase in drug production in the last 12 years. With the prevalence of poverty in Tajikistan, many Tajiks skip meals due to not being able to afford food. The constant hunger and skipping meals cause many to turn to drugs.
According to a 2012 study, heroin and other drugs have the capability of suppressing hunger. As Heroin is most traded in Tajikistan it may be an alternative to many who are not able to cope with the constant hunger of having to skip meals. This leads to feeding their addiction and continuing the cycle of turning to drugs due to stress while having it affect their work life.
A Look Ahead
Authorities in Tajikistan are aware of the problem of drug usage in the country and are making efforts to get rid of it. In April 2021, the President and other figureheads met at an event specifically aimed to address the drug problem in Tajikistan. In this event, the Regional Representative to Central Asia from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) specifically named ways to combat the problem. Some of the established solutions included “establishing Border Liaison Offices, Port Control Units, border outposts, Training Academy of DCA and health interventions.” However, not much else is occurring to address the drug usage problem.
It is up to the rest of the world to call attention to this issue and its effects on the vulnerable population. Efforts to eliminate drug usage are also addressing poverty in Tajikistan. Drugs instigate the cycle of poverty which means that getting rid of drug addiction will help others. It is important for the Tajik government to keep fighting for its citizens and bring new hope and health to its people.
– Kler Teran