From Despair to Hope: Overcoming Addiction, Embracing Recovery, and Defying Stigma in Pakistan

The theme of World Drug Day 2023 is “People first: stop stigma and discrimination, strengthen prevention.” To commemorate the day, UNODC is highlighting its work on drug prevention and treatment around the world. 

26th June 2023 – "The magnitude of the damage caused by drugs is something I shudder to contemplate." 

Laila*, a 25-year-old woman from a respectable family and a recovering drug addict at a treatment and rehabilitation center in Pakistan, stood with her back turned, gazing out the window. Her voice trembled as she shared her story.   

At the tender age of 18, she married. But her husband was frequently absent, leaving her in solitude. 

During her pregnancy, Laila endured mistreatment from her in-laws, prompting her to seek refuge at her parents' home. Eventually, she made the difficult decision to divorce her husband. 

“The aftermath of my divorce left me engulfed in loneliness, which led me down the path of addiction,” she shared.  

"It's unfathomable to grasp the state I was in before coming here,” Laila continued, referring to the treatment center. “I resorted to renting a room where I would languish in a haze of intoxication. 

“Someone alerted my family to my dire circumstances, revealing my unwitting descent into drug addiction," she recounted. 

"I was utterly devastated, having lost everything, particularly my financial stability. Regrettably, I even neglected my child, leaving them unattended in the room while I was under the influence." 

Witnessing Laila's plight, her family sought to convince Laila that her addiction was a treatable disease. Initially hesitant, Laila gradually embraced the notion.  

Supported by her family, she embarked on a three-month treatment program at a center with trainers trained by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Funded by the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Office (INL) of the US Embassy in Pakistan, UNODC is building the capacity of drug treatment and prevention professionals in Pakistan on the Universal Treatment Curriculum (UTC) and Universal Prevention Curriculum, training over 100 drug treatment professionals from civil society and health, education, and law enforcement organizations. 

The curriculums relate to the UNODC-World Health Organization “International Standards for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders”, a guide which identifies major components and features of effective systems for the treatment of drug use disorders. They describe treatment modalities and interventions to match the needs of people at different stages and severities of drug use disorders. 

At the center, Laila came to terms with the “extensive harm” her addiction caused. “It defies adequate description. It's inconceivable that a girl who had once led a good life found herself in such a wretched state.  

“Reflecting upon the hardships endured by my family and brothers due to my drug addiction fills me with sorrow. Addiction stained my brothers' reputation, led to the dissolution of my marriage, and compelled me to leave my children," Laila lamented. "Nevertheless, I am now on the path to recovery, guided by faith and newfound hope. 

"Today, as I conclude my treatment, an overwhelming sense of joy permeates my being. I have emerged stronger than ever, enriched by invaluable wisdom gained during my time here. I fervently pray that I never plunge into such destitution again." 


* Name changed to protect privacy


Social Media