Turkey's IHH launches wide campaign against drug abuse

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Aid agency says Turkey has an increasing demand for drug-related treatment.

Turkey's Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) has launched a major campaign aimed at raising awareness on drug addiction and abuse.

Osman Atalay, a member of the agency’s executive board, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that Turkey was an overland transportation route for heroin and its derivatives to Europe.

"The country has also been a market for synthetic drugs flown from Europe," Atalay said during an exclusive interview.

The campaign -- named 'Protect Your Neighbourhood and School: Say No to Drugs' -- has conducted a series of conferences across Turkey in cooperation with public institutions since January.

The project targets over 30 provinces -- including Trabzon, Antalya, Erzurum, Kocaeli, Malatya, Diyarbakir, Eskisehir, and Hatay -- with high rates of drug dependence or abuse.

"We are working closely with provincial health directors, school managers, narcotics, imams, and families in this campaign," said Atalay, stressing that drug abuse prevention starts with parents and teachers.

According to Atalay, there are four factors that contribute to drug addiction: peer pressure, curiousity about drugs, psychological problems, and family conflicts.

"Peer pressure is a huge factor which contributes to over 40 percent of drug abuse among teenagers," he said.

Drug-related cases on increase 

Atalay said, in the last five years, the demand for drug-related treatment in Turkey has reportedly increased, and the number of Alcohol and Substance Addiction Treatment Centers (AMATEM) are on the increase across the country.

"The increase in the number of AMATEMs signify the rising drug addiction," the IHH member said.

A 2017 report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said the highest rates of drug abuse were reported among young males aged 15-34 years.

According to the Turkey Drug Addiction Annual Report 2017 -- comprising of data from eight ministries -- over 2,000 drug-related deaths occurred in the country over the past 10 years.

The report added more than 680,500 people received drug addiction treatment between 2014-2016, costing more than 147 million Turkish liras ($37.5 million).

However, Atalay said the real numbers are much greater as drug deaths are only recorded when caused by overdosing or intoxication.

"Drug-related deaths may take years to occur, causing organ failure, damaging the body slowly," Atalay said.