Iran’s Heroin Crisis and NA- Hope in the Golden Crescent

Imagine yourself a Persian junkie.  You’re given a precious gift, a reprieve from active addiction.  It’s granted by grace and maintained via the steps and fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous (NA). To fortify your recovery and help suffering addicts you bring NA meetings to the homeless in Herat, Afghanistan.  Meetings are held beneath bridges, where addicts huddle.  The road above is the Kandahar-Herat Highway, which traverses the Iranian border deep into Afghanistan.  You have NA literature, food and cigarettes tucked beneath your arms.  The literature is expertly translated from English to Farsi, then crudely from Farsi to Urdu.  You have the Mullah’s permission to reach out to local addicts, but not the War Lords’.  This places you in peril, since desperate addicts are reliable customers.  Some of your more adventurous fellows carry NA’s message through terrorist strongholds as far as Kabul, near the Pakistan border.  There they bring experience, strength and hope to addicts, often with bombs exploding far and near.

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Narcotics Anonymous is taking seed in Afghanistan, a nation where addiction is as much a part of the landscape as dry desert and jagged mountain peaks.  It was introduced to the region by neighboring Iran, where a pall is cast by a heroin crisis that is perhaps the world’s worst.  That’s the bad news. The good news is that NA Iran has rapidly grown to meet their vast need. Today Iran boasts the 2nd largest total NA membership in the world.  If the trend continues, they will soon have the single largest membership anywhere, outgrowing even the United States.

The first Iranian group was started in 1990 by Persian addicts that were introduced to the fellowship in California.  Upon returning home, they tried to establish a meeting at a rehab facility. When the facility declined their request to operate autonomously, the fellows risked meeting in secret at a private home. In 1990 it was illegal for drug addicts to congregate in Iran, just as it was for felons in the United States when NA was originally formed in 1953.  From there the organization sprouted and flowered, eventually gaining legal standing as an approved Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).  The rate of growth that followed is unprecedented in recovery.

Persian NA’s enthusiasm for recovery and fellowship development are unparalleled. Their willingness to subject themselves to unimaginably perilous circumstances to carry their message is beyond inspirational. Theirs is a story that bears telling.

To be continued…