Drug of choice

If you think partaking in drugs is looked upon as a sin in this country, just try it in deeply religious Muslim countries, such as Afghanistan. While that country is widely recognized as the largest producer of opium, its religious fanatics do more than just frown at drug use—it means ostracism and perhaps execution.

But, when things get really tough (and things, it seems, are always tough in Afghanistan), the men and women sometimes turn to this most prevalent of drugs.

The refugees I came to know in Pakistan … well, if anyone could be forgiven for lighting up a bowl or eating a small wad of opium on occasion, it was them. Driven by bombings and other atrocities, the Afghans fled their homes and then were forced to live in overcrowded refugee camps. They had lost their fear of being ostracized, because they already had been ostracized from their country. Some women reportedly gave their children opium just to keep them from crying. With no real home or job, and no future, why not partake?

The only problem, of course, was long-term addiction. The temporary distraction from war and death, and the initial euphoria, gave way to physical and psychological dependence. As it always does, it led to withdrawal symptoms and the need to feed the habit to avoid the pain that became far worse than the problems associated with being a refugee in Pakistan. So, their tragedy was compounded by the addictive compounds found in the opiate. Now, those people I felt sorry for. They gave up one pain they hadn’t asked for and moved on to a much worse one.

But why would a fairly intelligent writer from Nevada take up opium? (See “Confessions of an eBay opium addict.”) He went looking for a cheap high and found his own unique version of hell.