IranIran has consistently been in the news over the past 3 years due to concerns about radioactive weapons manufacturing, war, religion and oil. It’s a volatile area in the Middle East and a country that’s raised the ire of the United States government. One of the seldom referenced issues regarding Iran, however, is not violence or war or oil, it’s methamphetamine use. One of the biggest problems afflicting the United States Government also happens to be wreaking havoc on one of the government’s biggest enemies.

Tehran growing with the drug use

In Iran, crystal meth is known as shisheh, which roughly translates to crystalline glass. It’s becoming the most popular drug in Tehran, Iran’s capital and one of the most populous cities in western Asia. Tehran is a burgeoning city, with lots of young people, money and growth. Meth is thought to be a part of this growth, with people using the “upper” qualities of the drug to give them a jolt of energy in the growing city. Also adding to its popularity is the low, bargain cost of meth. Much of the story in Iran applies to America. The low prices and extreme highs are just as attractive to addicts in America as they are in Iran.

The Good and Bad

Tehran’s build and layout mirrors the highs and lows of meth abuse. There are large plots of nice, affluent areas that are welcoming and fun mixed with destitution, desolation, crime and danger. This mirrors the trials and tribulations of taking meth. There are highs with wonderful euphoria, energy, vigor and arousal, just like the well-off people in Tehran, but soon the user will crash into the harsh reality of withdrawal. The body aches, the sweating, the headaches, the disorientation and insomnia of meth withdrawal are synonymous with the bad parts of Iran’s capital city.

A foggy view of the problems in Tehran

It’s hard to say exactly how bad the meth epidemic is in Iran. The government’s closest measure says meth is the second most popularly used drug in the country that at least 8.2% of the country between the ages 15 and 45 have tried meth. As a comparison, America finds methamphetamine to be one of the biggest drug problems facing the country, yet the number of Americans in that age range who have taken meth at some point in their life is closer to 5%. 

Government authorities seized 1.4 tons of methamphetamine in 2010, 3.5 tons of crystal meth in 2013 and shutdown 375 meth labs in 2013 as well. Authorities believe that they have only shut down a small number of the meth labs that are currently in production in Iran. The numbers also tell a frightening picture when you consider that around 50% of all mental patients in Iran have been admitted because of complications from taking methamphetamine.

The origin story for meth in Iran

Iran has had a long history with addiction. Like many Middle eastern and Asian countries, Iran’s population first dealt with opium addiction. Opium and opium addiction have been around since the 16th and 17th centuries, but in the late 80’s and 90’s opium started giving away to the bigger, stronger, faster drugs like heroin, ecstasy and a number “uppers”. In the early 2000’s meth gained a quick hold on the population as meth labs seemingly opened up over night. As the ingredients became more readily available in Iran, the prices dropped and the drug became even more popular. Around 2009, the price of meth went down by 400% and addiction was a full on epidemic.

References:

theGuardian.com – Crystal meth: ‘Walk a little way in any direction and buy it for a trifle’

http://www.theguardian.com/world/iran-blog/2014/may/13/crystal-meth-tehrans-new-drug-of-choice

DrugAbuse.gov – Methamphetamine –http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/methamphetamine