Drug use has increased among children aged between 8 and 11, said Dr. Farid Barati-Sadeh, the director of the State Welfare Organization of Iran’s Center for Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation.
According to Dr. Barati-Sadeh, the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan has the highest number of children who are addicted to hard drugs. In a report released to state media, he said that health officials had treated more than 300 children with a drug problem in the past two years in the provincial capital, Zahedan.
Dr. Barati-Sadeh added: “The Anti-Narcotics Headquarters, the Ministry of Health and Medical Education, and the State Welfare Organization have agreed that the Ministry of Health would be responsible for the treatment and rehabilitation of underage addicts who are without parents or competent legal guardians.”
Barati-Sadeh explained: “Children will no longer be admitted as in-patients to the drug treatment facilities in the provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan, Tehran, Alborz and North Khorasan. They initially will be treated as out-patients, and if needed, admitted to hospitals that have proper facilities and specialist staff.”
The Ministry of Health has reportedly designated 16 hospitals for the treatment of children who are addicted to drugs. But Barati-Sadeh noted: “We don’t know how many treatment centers they have selected. Also, we haven’t heard anything about the efforts by the ministries of education and health to identify students with a drug problem.”
“The Birjand University of Medical Sciences and health services in South Khorasan Province have been treating children with drug addiction. It is, however, unclear if the services are available to child migrants. It is up to the Ministry of Health to decide whether they could be treated at these facilities or not. Migrant children were admitted to the treatment centers as in-patients when the service was still available,” Barati-Sadeh pointed out. “We should provide the same treatment to students, homeless children and underage street vendors who are addicted to drugs.”
“There are many children with a drug problem in Sistan and Baluchestan, but we can’t help them, since the responsibility to treat them has now shifted to the Ministry of Health. We’re still waiting for the ministry to set a guideline and a protocol for treating underage addicts,” Barati-Sadeh said. “The Center for Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation can look after underage addicts if a judge were to issue a court order to that effect.”
“We’ve seen a drug problem among children of all ages, even newborns, but the highest number of addictions is among teenagers. Drug use has also risen in children aged between 8 and 11,” Barati-Sadeh noted. “Children with a drug problem should also receive help from social workers, psychologists, and pediatricians. There are also many children with a drug problem in the poor and disadvantaged southern Harandi neighborhood of Tehran.”
[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]