. Afghanistan’s vast poppy fields are the source of the majority of the world’s heroin, and the country has emerged as a significant meth producer. Both have fueled massive addiction around the country.

Now the uncontested rulers of Afghanistan, the Taliban have set their sights on stamping out the scourge of narcotics addiction, even if by force. The Associated Press reports:

At nightfall, the battle-hardened fighters-turned-policemen scour the capital’s drug-ravaged underworld. Below Kabul’s bustling city bridges, amid piles of garbage and streams of filthy water, hundreds of homeless men addicted to heroin and methamphetamines are rounded up, beaten and forcibly taken to treatment centers. The Associated Press gained rare access to one such raid last week.

The scene provided a window into the new order under Taliban governance: The men — many with mental illness, according to doctors — sat against stone walls with their hands tied. They were told to sober up or face beatings.

Drug users detained during a Taliban raid wait for a medical check in the detoxification ward of the Avicenna Medical Hospital for Drug Treatment in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. Now the uncontested rulers of Afghanistan, the Taliban have set their sights on stamping out the scourge of narcotics addiction, even if by force. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

The heavy-handed methods are welcomed by some health workers, who have had no choice but to adapt to Taliban rule. “We are not in a democracy anymore, this is a dictatorship. And the use of force is the only way to treat these people,” said Dr. Fazalrabi Mayar, working in a treatment facility. He was referring specifically to Afghans addicted to heroin and meth.

Soon after the Taliban took power on Aug. 15, the Taliban Health Ministry issued an order to these facilities, underscoring their intention to strictly control the problem of addiction, doctors said.

Bleary-eyed and skeletal, the detained encompass a spectrum of Afghan lives hollowed out by the country’s tumultuous past of war, invasion and hunger. They were poets, soldiers, merchants, farmers. Afghanistan’s vast poppy fields are the source of the majority of the world’s heroin, and the country has emerged as a significant meth producer. Both have fueled massive addiction around the country.

Old or young, poor or once well-off, the Taliban view the addicts the same: A stain on the society they hope to create. Drug use is against their interpretation of Islamic doctrine. Addicts are also stigmatized by the wider, largely conservative Afghan community.

But the Taliban’s war on drugs is complicated as the country faces the prospect of economic collapse and imminent humanitarian catastrophe.

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