The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) fears that that the survivors of the massive October 8 South Asian earthquake in Pakistan and Afghanistan might turn to drugs to provide succor from their miseries. To avert this possibility, the agency has launched a series of workshops in collaboration with the Pakistani Ministry of Health (MoH).
Vincent McClean, Country Representative for UNODC said that the agency had increasingly taken note of the fact that people affected by natural and manmade disasters turned to drugs for some relief. "UNODC has observed in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world that victims of natural and manmade disasters are at high risk of developing drug dependence and addiction - maybe as a result of prescribed medications to the injured for the relief of extreme pain or otherwise due to discomfort and boredom amongst displaced populations after a disaster," he said. Although, no large scale drug abuse cases have come to light in the region, the authorities want to avert this possibility altogether and hence have launched awareness campaigns to control the same, "A particular concern to us is the excessive use of tranquillizers, opiate-based painkillers and cannabis. On the other hand, drug abusers in a traumatized population are many times more difficult to treat than in the general population," said Dr Rizwan Taj, head of psychiatry at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS).
The earthquake claimed more than 80,000 lives and left 3.5 million homeless. Official estimates put the injured toll at 100,000. This particular workshop is one of the many that are being planned through the next few months.