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Number of drug addicts in Armenia up 50 pct over two years

3 July 2013 12:26 (UTC+04:00)
Number of drug addicts in Armenia up 50 pct over two years

By Sabina Idayatova

The number of drug addicts in Armenia has increased by 50 percent over the past two years, website said.

Armenian chief narcologist Petros Semerjan said late in June that the number of the drug addicts registered at the Armenian Narco-Clinical Center is 4,332, including 52 women.

"According to the studies conducted in 2011, the actual number of drug addicts exceeded 12,700 people. The average age of drug addicts is between 29 and 49," Semerjan said.

Semerjan noted that the use of cannabis, opium and cocaine is widespread in Armenia.

"Despite the measures taken to combat drug trafficking, this combat is not so successful. The only country that currently copes successfully with the problem of drug addiction is Sweden," he said.

In April, Semerjan said facilities with the latest technology and equipment available in many Western countries to get rid of dependence on drugs are merely "a dream" for Armenia.

The number of drug addicts in Armenia, especially in recent years, is growing rapidly.
Politicians and representatives of the show business are frequently come across among the registered drug addicts, website quoted Semerjan as saying earlier.

Although Armenia like some countries such as Georgia and Russia does not "patronize" drug addiction, the country still imports drugs exactly as much as there is a demand, the narcologist said.

Semerjan further said the effectiveness of the treatment of people suffering from drug addiction is quite low, for the simple reason that there is no continuous rehabilitation program.

Those individual centers are usually located far from the cities where drug addicts undergo rehabilitation courses with the help of psychologists, he said.

According to Semerjan, usually, 8-10 percent of the patients are treated at the registered clinics throughout a year, and the treatment lasts 10 to 50 days. About 80 percent of treated people again return to the 'old business'. This is primarily due to the fact that people after treatment return to the previous environment with their problems.

"So we have a need for rehabilitation centers, which is very costly," he said.

Armenia is landlocked and the two longest of its four borders are closed, resulting in limited transport options, which makes the country less attractive for drug trafficking, according to studies.

The most common illicit drug in Armenia is marijuana, most of which is grown locally. Both marijuana and poppies grow in the wild, and the government sponsors an annual eradication event in August.

However, the seizure of dangerous drugs at the airport and border checkpoints, particularly from the south, increases every year. A new smuggling trend along the Iranian border involves plastic balls with light-emitting diodes attached: the balls are thrown across the Arax River at night, with opiates going one way (into Armenia) and payment going the other (into Iran), a report of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs said on March 1.

The potential for Armenia to develop into an active transit area for drug traffickers exists but is not yet widely exploited. Narcotic cases rose to over 1,100 instances this year. While drug seizures are relatively low, penalties remain fairly stiff, according to Armenia 2013 Crime and Safety Report, which is prepared by the US State Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

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