Islamic Republic of Iran

UNODC works with Iranian universities to strengthen "Drug and HIV/AIDS Prevention"

Emad, 55 years old, is a devoted husband and caring father. Emad noticed lately that his cherished 20 years old son Maziar was acting in strange ways. He was convinced that Maziar's odd behavior was due to his university life. Therefore, he decided to speak to his son who in return confessed to him: "University is very demanding. Classes were hard and I experienced peer pressure in different areas. The stress behind this new life style was more than I could bear and I needed a relief. My friends suggested I should try drugs that would help me cope with this pressure. That is how I started using drugs" said Maziar.

Going to college or university can be a very exciting period. However, many students experience, often for the first time in their lives, a wide range of demands at individual, interpersonal, academic and societal levels such as leaving home, developing autonomy, making new friends and dealing with peer pressure, which may put them at risk of drug abuse. In addition, environmental, individual, personality and family factors such as drug-using peers, parental drug abuse and mental health problems continue to play a significant role as risk factors. Experimenting illegal drugs is considered to be "normal" by many students, who appear to overlook the negative consequences of drugs and alcohol use including the possibilities of HIV transmission. In fact drug users are not only at risk of HIV infection through sharing contaminated injection equipments but also through unprotected sexual behaviors.

A survey on "the prevalence of drug use in Tehran students" published in 2008 in the Iranian Journal of Psychiatry and Clinical Psycology demonstrated that over 17% of Tehran students experienced drinking alcohol, 2.3% had tried Opium, 2.2% had experienced smoking Hashish, and 0.7% had used Ecstasy.

In the framework of its Country Programme 2011-2014, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in the Islamic Republic of Iran in cooperation with the Counseling Center of Tehran University and the Iranians Health of Thought Institute as well as with the support of its funding partners, the Federal Republic of Germany and Norway, developed a training package on "Drugs and HIV/AIDS prevention for university freshmen", aimed at increasing drug prevention capacities in universities across the country.

The main target groups of this training package are "freshmen" students, their parents and counselors working with them. The package focuses on several themes and concepts in the field of drug use and HIV/AIDS prevention such as: life skills training, family skills for parents, living in stressful situation, family approaches, risk and protective factors, drug abuse and drug dependency and the role of parents in prevention of drug use. The package was officially launched during the sixth national seminar on "Mental Health of University Students", organized by the Ministry of Sciences, Research and Technology and in cooperation with the Drug Control Headquarters, the Ministry of Health, Treatment and Medical Education, the State Welfare Organization and UNODC, held on 16-17 May 2012. In the near future, UNODC is planning to organize a training course in the universities of Tehran province based on the package.

"This training package will help students like Maziar, their parents and the Counseling Center of Tehran University acquire the skills needed to better deal with new pressures associated with starting a new life at university" said Mr. De Leo, UNODC country representative. "Hopefully, freshmen will gradually learn to empower themselves and lead a healthy and drug free life".