MUDHAFER AL-HUSAINI and ERICA GOODE
Sunday, Dec 21, 2008
For an Iraqi Army soldier patrolling Baghdad’s unpredictable streets, each 12-hour shift is an exercise in terror and uncertainty.
So Ahmed Qasim pops a small white tablet called Artane to help him through his duties.
“For me, it helps me to get the job done,” he said. “I can’t bear working without taking Artane. It makes me happy and high, but I still can control myself.”
The abuse of prescription drugs, widely available in Iraq on the black market and through private pharmacies, has significantly increased since 2003, doctors and other health specialists say, nourished by the stresses of the war and the lack of strict government regulation.
Dealers do a brisk business in tranquilizers, painkillers and other drugs, specialists say, and drug abuse is a problem in the prisons and among Iraqis who live in poor neighborhoods or who are unemployed.
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But in recent years, Iraqi soldiers and police officers have also turned to drugs to ease the stresses of their jobs. In particular, they are abusing artane, a medication that is used to treat Parkinson’s disease and that can have euphoric effects when used in high doses.
“They believe that this Artane allows them to become courageous, to become brave,” said one doctor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. about the issue.
This article was posted: Sunday, December 21, 2008 at 8:04 am