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Another Failed Drug War: Poppy Eradication in Afghanistan

"When I get upset I want to use opium," says a mother who works from home weaving rugs in Afghanistan. A sale of one rug allows for her to afford months of household expenses and feed her children. Having beaten her opium addiction, there are times when the past addiction still feels crippling. A disturbing pattern that exists is that many women weaving rugs turn to opium for help with aches and pains while weaving.

Decades of conflict in Afghanistan have left the country’s economy in shambles. Some feel that the United States' approach to combating drugs in Afghanistan is to eradicate crops and criminalize the cultivators. However, many farmers in Afghanistan cultivate opium as it is one of the few things that they can still grow for a profit. Criminalizing the producers ignores the lack of economic alternatives that drives many farmers to plant poppy crops, and it does little to help those addicted to opium.

Addiction to opium is rampant in more rural Afghan communities. Many addicted, including middle-aged women, even children, were not knowledgeable of the addictive properties of opium smoking. "If I knew it, I never would have used it," says one woman. The secondhand smoke of opium can also be inhaled and become addictive to others in the household.

The U.S. and Britain have devoted hundreds of millions of dollars every year to eradicate poppy crops, yet a very low percentage (some sources say approximately 10 percent) of addicts in Afghanistan receive any sort of drug treatment.

This short film takes an on-the-ground look at the issue of opium production in Afghanistan. It features interviews with Afghan women who have overcome addiction but who speak to the economic realities that contribute to the persistence of the drug trade.

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