Addiction is a complex and chronic brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences.

It can be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors and is often accompanied by physical and psychological dependence on the substance.

Addiction can affect people of any age, gender, or background and can have a significant impact on an individual’s health, relationships, and daily life. Common types of addiction include substance abuse (such as alcohol or drug addiction), behavioral addictions (such as gambling or internet addiction), and food addiction.Addiction

It might be surprising to hear that the number one country in the world consuming illegal drugs is Iran, a nation where opium figured prominently in its history as a painkiller and lucrative crop. In 2015,

the Iranian Drug Control Headquarters estimated that 2.8 million of 15‒64 year olds were dependent on illicit drugs, with an average age of opioid dependence of 32 years and average age of initiation of drug use in the early 20s. It is estimated that 67% of these addicts are using opium.

With inhaled or injected heroin at 14.32% per capita in this Islamic Republic, this translates to over 2.2 million drug addicts out of a population of 80 million, or 2.75%. So, what is driving this epidemic and drug use and how can we respond as Followers of Christ?

Iran’s 600-mile border with Afghanistan to its east makes it a gateway to Afghanistan’s opium poppy harvest, which produces more than 90% of illicit heroin globally and more than 95% of the European supply.

Iran’s strategic location in the Persian Gulf makes it a vital, porous transshipment point for heroin on its way to Western Europe. Despite vast efforts by Iran’s government to intercept, block and seize its entry, approximately 60% of Afghanistan’s opium comes through this nation.

It has been estimated that Iranian police confiscate over 1 ton of narcotics a day from smugglers and that 30 drug smugglers and addicts are identified and arrested every hour. Even with these efforts to stop the influx of opium into the nation, Iran has always had its addicts due to its location to Afghanistan and the Islamic stigma against drinking alcohol.

Another factor is that opium and its derivatives are cheap, strong, and readily available. Drug addiction has become the ‘other religion’, according to a 2013 article in The Economist

Some of the reasons for the drug epidemic include economic stagnation brought about by international sanctions, inflation, family dysfunction, torn marriages, financial ruin, emotional turmoil, social frustration, unhappiness, immobility of the population, drug availability, and unemployment.

And drug addiction is affecting all segments of society from the educated to the uneducated and from the homeless and poor to the affluent and everyone in between. With a daily supply of opium costing as little as $1, it is no wonder that the population is turning to it as a way to feel better and forget about life.

For example, according to a 2016 LA Times article, Shabanali Mirshekar, a violinist from northeast Iran, stated that opium ‘made me forget all my troubles.’ This is what GCM hears over and over in reports. Many Iranians are depressed and hopeless. However, just as in Shabanali’s case, where his addiction led to separation from his wife and life in a hostel for musicians in a crime-ridden part of southern Tehran, it only makes matters worse.

Despite all the law enforcement (there is even the death penalty for drug users and dealers inside Iran), thousands of rehabilitation clinics and detoxification centers, the problem of drug addiction continues to grow steadily without an end in sight.

As a result, Muslims inside this nation, and surrounding ones, are realizing that the Islamic state, which promises a better life, is far from a reality. The fruit of the last 40 years under Islamic control has only produced greater hopelessness among its inhabitants. We hope this information helps you understand the depth of depravity inside this country and compels you all the more to pray.

But there is good news—God is moving mightily in this nation and setting people free of their addictions as they come to Christ. At GCM, we are committed to reaching the broken and bringing the gospel with compassion to such as these. Pray for us to reach more hurting and broken people today with the love and salvation of Christ.

Additional Source Links:

Afghanistan Opium Survey

Elam Ministries

Kurdistan News

BBC News

NCBI Resources

Middle East Institute

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We believe the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are inspired by God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct. (2 Timothy 3:15-17, 1 Peter 1:21)

We believe that there is one God, eternally existent who has revealed Himself as embodying the principles of relationship and association as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Deuteronomy 6:4, Luke 3:22)

We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father where He intercedes for us, in His present rule as Head of the Church, and in His personal return in power and glory. (Matthew 1:23, Luke 1:31)

We believe in the creation of mankind in God’s image, and the fall of man, resulting in universal guilt and total depravity; and the necessity, therefore, of redemption and restoration; that all men and women are lost spiritually and face the judgment of God, that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, and that repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for regeneration by the Holy Spirit. (Genesis 1:26-27, Genesis 2:17)

We believe salvation is received through repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, being justified by grace through faith, man becomes an heir of God, according to the hope of eternal life. (Luke 24:47, John 3:3)

We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; the saved unto the resurrection of eternal life in the presence of our Lord, and the lost unto the resurrection of damnation and eternal punishment. (Matthew 25:46, Mark 9:43-48)

We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ and that all true believers are members of His body, the Church, which has the duty to preach the Gospel to every person. (Ephesians 1:22-23, Ephesians 2:22)

We believe that we must dedicate ourselves to prayer, to the service of our Lord, to His authority over our lives, and to the ministry of teaching, preaching, the prophetic, the apostolic, and evangelism. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

We believe in upholding the ordinances of the church of water baptism and holy communion.

The ordinance of baptism by immersion is commanded by the Scriptures. All who repent and believe in Christ as Savior and Lord are to be baptized. Thus, they declare to the world that they have died with Christ and that they also have been raised with Him to walk in newness of life. (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16, Acts 10:47,48, Romans 6:4)

The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements—bread and the fruit of the vine—, is the symbol expressing our sharing the divine nature of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:4), a memorial of His suffering and death (1 Corinthians 11:26), and a prophecy of His second coming (1 Corinthians 11:26), and is enjoined on all believers “till He comes!”