Islamic Republic of Iran

The tragic journey of a drug-addict's wife

"All my troubles began two years ago, when I used drugs for the first time" said Reihan. The 25 years old woman is currently in a prison in Tehran on the charge of drug trafficking. Recently, she has also been diagnosed HIV positive.

"My partnerwas a drug addict. When we first met, I was not using drugs andI was continuously trying to convince him to undertake treatment to overcome his addiction. I tried to address this issue calmly with him, I tried nagging and complaining, I threatened to leave him. But all these efforts were in vain. His only answer to my concern was that I could not help him because I was not in his position and I could not understand him. His frustration slowly grew into anger and violence. He started beating me, every day. At this point, he managed to convince me to try drugs. I thought that using drugs might help us find back our complicity, and maybe would allow me to help him. Finally, by becoming a drug addict I was avoiding domestic violence." Reihan continued:"At the beginning, my partner was employed and we earned the money we needed to buy our drug. The increase in our drug use eventually led to him losing his job. Suddenly, we were no longer able to afford buying our drugs, and that is when we decided to start selling drugs. A few months later, we both got arrested, sentenced and sent to jail" Reihan added before bursting into tears: "Mandatory testing done in the prison revealed that we were both HIV positive."

The story of Reihanis unfortunately quite common. Many female drug abusers were introduced to drugs by or because of their drug-addict partners. These women believed that using drugs would help them understand and relate better to their partners. According to them, drug use also reduced the stress, the frustration and the social pressure that result from living with a drug-addict. Drug use among women is usually accompanied with additional degree of personal, familial and social distress compared to men.

While the Islamic Republic of Iran have taken many significant steps in drug prevention, programmes and activities targeting specific vulnerable groups have been implemented in a rather isolated manner.For this reason, the UNODC Country Office in Iran has been supporting national drug prevention programmes targeting women.

In the framework of its Country Programmefor 2011-2014, UNODC developed a training package on "Drug and HIV/AIDS prevention for drug abusers". This package came as a result of a long consultation process with a representative sample of spouses of drug abusers in Iran. In May 2012, a four-day Training of Trainers workshopbased on the training package was held in KhorasanRazavi Province. Forty experts participated in the workshop from the State Welfare Organisation, the Prisons Organisation, the Municipality, Imam Khomeini Foundation and the Anti-narcotics Coordination Council of KhorasanRazavi, South Khorasan, North Khorasan, Kerman and Sistan&Balouchistan provinces. This workshop aimed at improving drug use prevention programmes countrywide and increasing the knowledge of service providers in drug use prevention among drug abusers' spouses.

Mr. Antonino De Leo, the UNODC Country Representative, called for more attention, resources and efforts in the field of drug use prevention to effectively address the drug challenge. "Everybody has a role to play, starting from the Drug Control Headquarters, other relevant ministries and institutions, civil society organizations, municipalities, associations, universities and media". He added that the UNODC will continue to assist national efforts in the provision of scientific-based information, as well as the promotion of skills and opportunities to make healthy choices. "The drug use issue needs to be tackledin the society by raising awareness and empowering families. The story of Reihan is a powerful reminder of the devastating consequences of lack of awareness, attention and support that should start within family circles".