Islamic Republic of Iran

A helping hand for adolescent drug users

"The first time I started using Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS) in parties it was just to relieve my emotional distress. I was more like an owl, escaping from home at nights to get drugs and returning to it before dawn, scared to be seen by family members". Farzad, 18 years old, used to be a healthy and energetic teenager before he started using drugs. "I've turned into a skeleton, nothing but bones and skin".

Biological, cognitive, social and psychological transitions are the main reasons behind the use of drugs and alcohol by teenagers. In order to address the problem of drug abuse, the Iranian authorities have developed successful drug demand reduction programmes that lay high emphasis on the role of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Under its new integrated Country Programme of Technical Cooperation on Drugs and Crime in the Islamic Republic of Iran (2011-2014), UNODC has been supporting and assisting the government in implementing drug prevention and drug treatment programmes.

"One day, my mother found me almost unconscious in my room.  I still remember the fear in her look and the sound of her trembling voice. I fainted and when I woke up, I found myself in a place full of kind and caring people who were welcoming me. Since that day, I have been benefiting from treatment and support at the Rebirth Society short-term residential center in Verdij".

Often, parents of adolescent drug users do not have adequate information on available treatment facilities and programmes. Finding out about an adolescent child's drugs addiction problem can generate a sense of panic and great anxiety among parents. At this stage, experience tells us that parents become concerned about the right choice of treatment as well as the methods, the cost and the duration. Finally, families who are faced with a teenager substance abuse problem often feel shame and face social stigma.

Both national policies and strategies give high importance to family education and strengthening of families. In the recent years, drug and life skills education programmes have been developed in the country. UNODC has been conducting trainings on parenting programmes and providing tailor made training/intervention packages on strengthening family programme (SFP) with a focus on families at risk.

Furthermore, UNODC organized a national roundtable on "Identifying the needs of drug abuse treatment for adolescents" on 15 September 2011. A number of psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors and drug treatment experts specialized in child and adolescents' problems gathered in an effort to share information on the general situation of adolescent drug abusers and to assess the specific needs related to evidence-based drug treatment. In addition and as a follow up of the roundtable, a five-day Training of Trainers workshop on "Evidence-Based Drug Abuse Treatment for Adolescents" was organized by UNODC from 16 th to 20 th of October 2011. This training aimed at increasing the level of knowledge, confidence, and skills of psychologists, psychiatrists and experts nationwide on evidence-based drug treatment for adolescents. As a result, the trained participants committed to conduct similar workshops with the assistance and support of the Medical Sciences University in order to build and enhance the capacity of drug treatment and rehabilitation for adolescents on a national scale.

"I don't hate myself anymore. I am feeling better every day and I'm sure that a bright future is ahead of me. I will be drug free and will attend university. Most importantly, my family won't be ashamed of me anymore".