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Briefing paper: The Rise Of Harm Reduction in the Islamic Republic of Iran

A tough anti-drugs campaign was launched in Iran following the revolution that established the Islamic Republic in 1979. Individuals caught in possession of drugs received fines, imprisonment and corporal punishment. The death penalty was prescribed for serious drug offences. Despite these measures, drug use and drug trafficking have continued to increase, and Iran has become the principal transit country for drugs from Afghanistan. In 2002, Iran accounted for a quarter of world opiate seizures. At this time, it was officially estimated that there were between 200,000 and 300,000 drug injectors in the country, and this is widely regarded as an underestimate. The costs of Iran’s drug problem include: high levels of dependency and addiction; strains on the capacity of the criminal justice system; increases in drug related deaths; and high rates of HIV/AIDS infection among injecting drug users. There is growing recognition in Iran of the limits of enforcement, and the importance of the medical and social dimensions of drug misuse. This has resulted in improvements in drug treatment and expansion of harm reduction services.