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Cablegate: Drug Addiction in Iran: The Success of Twelve-Step

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P 251220Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4294
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ASHGABAT 000245

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/IR

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/25/2020
TAGS: IR PGOV PHUM SNAR PREL TX
SUBJECT: DRUG ADDICTION IN IRAN: THE SUCCESS OF TWELVE-STEP
PROGRAMS

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Sylvia Reed Curran. Reasons 1.4(b) an
d (d).

1. (C) An Iranian specialist in the treatment of drug
addiction spoke to Iran Watcher this week about medical and
legal approaches to the problem in Iran. xxxxxxxxxxxx
(please protect), xxxxxxxxxxxx contrasted Turkmenstan's punitie and
abstinence-based, rather than treatment-oriented, stance
towards drug abusers with that of Iran. There, he said,
criminal laws governing drug use have evolved significantly
in the xxxxxxxxxxxx years he has been working in the
field of addiction. In the 1980s, Iran's penal code imposed
harsh sentences on narcotics users, but began to change in
the 90s. This was due in part, he said, to the input of
experts like himself who emphasized the effectiveness of
treatment over retributive justice. These days, drug users
in Iran who are actively seeking treatment are not subject to
criminal penalties.

Narcotics anonymous: 50,000 members

2. (C) xxxxxxxxxxxx said that about 20 years ago, three young
Iranians, recovering drug abusers, returned from long
residences in the U.S. and started a branch of Narcotics
Anonymous. Since then, it has grown to an organization of
50,000 members with branches that hold regular meetings
throughout the country. He added that drug use in Iran is a
long-standing problem, dating back several hundred years, and
that it knows no particular socio-economic boundaries. He
cited depression as the most common reason that Iranians
abuse mood altering substances. Despite a significant drug
abuse problem in the country, Iranians actually use (though
do not necessarily abuse) alcohol much more than they do
drugs. In his view, there is a portion of these suffers from
depression that does not respond successfully to therapy and
will always seek mood altering substances. They account for
the 150,000 Iranians who receive regular,
government-sanctioned doses of methadone.

The success of twelve-step programs

3. (C) According to xxxxxxxxxxxx twelve-step
programs have been highly successful in treating drug
dependent Iranians, in sharp contrast to other Muslim
countries, such as Egypt and others in the Middle East. He
attributes this to the comfort that Iranians feel culturally
with the tenets of the program, particularly the concept of
"evil." Whereas in Islam, evil is considered to be "a
creation of God that must be eradicated," he said that
Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of Iran, in contrast,
acknowledges evil as a normal component of human nature that
can be acknowledged and overcome.

Recent problems...

4. (C) xxxxxxxxxxxx noted that the ambassador
to the UN was later also relieved of his position and is back
in Iran, with no promise of another government job. He
frequently sees him strolling through a local mall in Tehran.
xxxxxxxxxxxx, says he gets
"a lot of support" from xxxxxxxxxxxx. "If it weren't for

Ashgabat 00000245 002 of 002


him," he said, "I would probably have lost my job long ago."

5. (C) COMMENT: Our interlocutor has devoted his career to
learning about and treating drug addiction. xxxxxxxxxxxx
He said that, despite the recent
setbacks and problems he has encountered, there is nothing
else he would rather be doing. "The key," he said, "is
learning to treat those who are drug dependent with
compassion and humanity." END COMMENT
curran

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