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Pakistan has suffered greatly in the aftermath of chaotic events in its neighborhood, for no fault of its own. Or maybe it was our fault that we did not see it coming and did not put-up appropriate defenses to stop it.

Pakistan Narcotics Board was set up in 1957 to fulfill our obligation under the International Opium Convention of 1925. It comprised of representatives from provincial governments and some federal ministries. Pakistan Narcotics Control Board – PNCB was established in 1973 in response to UN Convention on Narcotics Control, with the mandate to combat narcotics in the country. During 1989, Narcotics Control Division – NCD was established and PNCB became its attached department. Anti-Narcotics Task Force – ANTF was established in December 1991 as an attached department of NCD. Anti-Narcotics Force – ANF was raised on 21 February 1995 by merging ANTF and PNCB. Finally, Ministry of Narcotics Control – MNC was established in August 2017.

As may be seen, Pakistan has been doing efforts to combat narcotics; however, the quality and timeliness may be debated upon. One thing is clear: our successive governments never had consistent and committed strategy to thwart the onslaught of drugs. True, that the problem is very difficult to handle even in the most advanced countries, because the drug dealers are always a step ahead of agencies. But we had been facing direct threat due to Afghan situation and should have done better.

Global Assessment Program – GAP is an initiative of United Nations Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention – UNODCCP. It collects global information based on pattern and trends in drug consumption through supporting member states for devising informed policies and actions. Their assessment study from the year 2000 was conducted in partnership with the Narcotics Control Division, Anti-Narcotics Force, Pakistan.

The survey was conducted through interviewing 283 Key Informants at 36 locales. The locales were structured to include 18 matched rural and urban areas.

GAP Survey Key Findings

  • Cannabis type drugs, hashish and charas were most often reported to ‘be commonly used’.
  • Cannabis represented the major illicit drug abused in Pakistan. This was in contrast with the findings of 1993 survey which suggested that Heroin was the most commonly abused drug.
  • Heroin and alcohol were reported in the current survey after cannabis, as the next mostly commonly used substances, with a widespread use.
  • Quite high levels of other types of drug abuse were also reported. 9% respondents reported the use of ‘other opiates’, 20% reported ‘psychotropic drugs’, and 12% reported common use of ‘drug injections’ in their locales.
  • Hashish and Charas are used across Pakistan: rural areas report slightly higher overall figures; KPK and Balochistan report higher figures, while Sindh reports lowest figures.
  • Heroin abuse is reported as a more urban phenomenon; 54% urban vs 32% rural locales.
  • Provincial differences are observable: Heroin abuse most commonly reported in Balochistan, and then Punjab. KPK had the lowest rating.
  • Drug injection also appeared least common in KPK. Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan reported strong upward trend for drug injection.
  • Last five years trend shows Heroin abuse stable or slightly decreasing in Punjab and rising in Sindh and Balochistan.
  • In all provinces, in both urban and rural locales, Heroin was the drug most associated with causing major problems – up to 88% respondents expressed this concern.
  • After Heroin, alcohol received the second highest problem score in all provinces, except Balochistan where Hashish and Charas received a higher rating. Punjab reported highest level of alcohol-related problems.
  • The survey could not adequately report on the drug abuse by women in Pakistan. It appeared that except psychotropic drugs, the abuse level in women was far lower. This may not be entirely correct because women could not be approached directly to conduct survey. It is presumed that their ability to get drugs on the street is limited, and their financial means may also be limiting factor.

Addicts using Heroin and drug injections regularly were also interviewed in four cities: Karachi, Quetta, Lahore, and Peshawar. In each city, drug abusers were recruited in street settings, in treatment facilities, and in prisons. 1,037 men and 12 women were interviewed. Data analysis was restricted to men only.

  • The mean age of abusers had risen; from 20s to 30s. This is significant because it showed that mature people were abusing Heroin who were supposed to have better information and control.
  • Addicts in the treatment facilities were affluent, and understandably so. Only resourceful people can pay about half a million rupees per month for rehab. One famous self-proclaimed addiction treatment consultant is known to charge 51,500 rupees for one sitting with him.
  • Other addicts were poorer, socially marginalized, less educated, more homeless, and unemployed.
  • Some Heroin addicts also reported abusing synthetic opiates. Though it was a small percentage, their use was regular, and they were injecting these drugs continuously.

We shall take up the topic of ‘Injecting’ in the next post.

To be Continued……

Disclaimer. Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images which does not show anyone’s copyright claim. However, if any such claim is presented, we shall remove the image with suitable regrets.

Microsoft Word – PAK IDTR_Published April 08.rev1.doc (

Drug Abuse in Pakistan – HOW (

Rising trend of substance abuse in Pakistan: a study of sociodemographic profiles of patients admitted to rehabilitation centres – PubMed (

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