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US Survey Says Afghan Drug Users Nearly Doubled Since 2012

FILE - Afghan farmers collect raw opium as they work in a poppy field in Chaparhar district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul.

A survey reveals that the number of drug users in Afghanistan increased to three million last year from an estimated 1.6 million in 2012.

Afghan Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz, while releasing findings of the U.S.-funded study in Kabul Tuesday, said it shows an alarming increase in drug users both in cities and rural areas, with children and women among them.

He said the number of drug users across Afghanistan stood at around 900,000 in 2005.

However, the survey has since documented the number of drug users increased to three million in 2014, the minister added, terming the trend “very worrying.”

Visiting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, William Brownfield, while sharing results of the research study, said it tells a “disturbing” story.

“Even more disturbing, the survey suggests that opioids, which lead to heroin and opium, the most disturbing of all the drugs, are the most prevalently used drugs in the rural area," Brownfield said, adding that children are also affected by this drug use.

The survey showed a national drug use rate of 11 percent, one of the highest in the world, suggesting one in every nine Afghans is a user of drugs.

"Drug use is an Afghan problem, an American problem and a problem for all the 195 countries represented in the United Nations," Brownfield said, underscoring the need for Afghans to tackle the issue as a national problem, and not a foreign problem.

The U.N. estimates Afghanistan grows about 80 percent of the world’s opium, which is used to produce highly addictive heroin. The war-torn country accounts for 90 percent of the world’s heroin supply.