Omar Ibrahim never thought he would become a drug addict. He first took drugs to overcome the pain of losing his brother. Omar recalls that day with anger and remorse. It was February 2008, and he was walking
“They only come to get free drugs and never show up again, because they feel it is shameful and wrong to consult a doctor for their addiction."
Since the fall of the Baath party in 2003, Anbar province has seen a rise in drug addiction, drug abuse and drug trafficking.
“The poor security situation, the absence of laws in recent years and the porous borders have all combined to make drugs easily available in the province,” says Anbar’s police commander, Bahaa al-Karkhi.
According to the 2010 statistics of the Anbar Health Directorate, the percentage of drug addicts among the population is only 1.1%.
But Dr Khalaf says these are only initial estimates and very little research on the use of drugs has actually been done.
“There is a need for in-depth surveys covering all sectors of Anbar society. We hope to initiate these surveys in the near future,” he said.
Many drug addicts go to pharmacies for drugs. They claim they cannot sleep or that they suffer from insomnia or depression.
Abu Huthayfa owns the oldest pharmacy in al-Ramadi marketplace. He confirmed that many people come to his shop to buy valium, antidepressants and other drugs. “We do not sell these drugs without prescriptions," he said, but he pointed out that other pharmacies do.
“There are government employees who work in hospitals and steal drugs to sell them to drug addicts."
According to statistics from security sources in the province, 50 pharmacies were closed down in 2010 because they sold drugs without prescriptions. Some of these pharmacies were not licensed and did not receive official approval.
Huthayfa says that most of those who come to buy sleeping pills or other drugs from his pharmacy are members of the security services, who are deployed at security checkpoints.
"Their lives are always threatened by armed groups, so they are constantly afraid and suffer psychological disorders. That is why they become addicted,” he says.
Karkhi, who became Anbar’s police commander last year, has set up a new unit to combat drug addiction.
He confirmed that there are many police officers with a drug problem. Last year, more than 50 members of the security forces, mostly young people, were accused of being drug addicts and more than 30 people were dismissed.
Those charged face 6 to 12 months in prison. Only those who can prove that they use drugs for medical treatment and only for a short period of time are pardoned.
“A health committee usually performs the assessment and provides us with reports on the health of the addicts,” said Karkhi.
As for the drug dealers, he said, they bring the drugs from border crossing points, such as al-Waleed port on the Syrian border or from the southern provinces bordering Iran.
He revealed that during 2010, 20 people were arrested, charged with dealing in drugs, such as cannabis, heroin, cocaine and sleeping pills. Two of them were Iranian nationals. They face imprisonment of between five years and life.