Afghan Moms Using Opium to Lull Kids to Sleep
When you're trying to lull kids to sleep, many parents will turn to swaddle blankets, pacifiers and, in emergencies, drives around the block with their child strapped into the car seat.
And, then, there are parents who feed their kids sedating medications such as Benadryl to try to keep them calm and drousy while traveling on airplanes.
But, in Afghanistan, it seems a daily dose of opium is the lullaby du jour.
"If I don't give him opium, he doesn't sleep," Aziza (no last name given), tells CNN about her 4-year-old son, Omaidullah. She says she feeds him a lump of opium for breakfast.
The mother, who comes from a poor family of carpet weavers in Balkh province, has no education and no idea of the health risks involved or that opium is addictive, CNN reports.
"We give the children opium whenever they get sick, as well," Aziza tells CNN.
She lives in a town where the nearest medical help is 4 1/2 hours away at a center with just 20 beds, according to the network.
In Afghanistan, opium has become a cradle-to-grave addiction that is passed on from one generation to the next, CNN reports. Adults take opium to work longer hours and ease their pain.
"I had to work and raise the children, so I started using drugs," Aziza's elderly mother-in-law, Rozigul, tells CNN. "We are very poor people, so I used opium. We don't have anything to eat. That is why we have to work and use drugs to keep our kids quiet."
The entire extended family is addicted, she tells CNN.
This part of Afghanistan, famous for its carpets, is so remote there are no real roads. The dirt ones that exist are often blocked by landslides. The closest government-run drug rehabilitation is at the medical center, CNN reports.
"Opium is nothing new to our villages or districts. It's an old tradition, something of a religion in some areas," Dr. Mohamed Daoud Rated, coordinator of the drug rehabilitation center, tells CNN. "People use opium as drugs or medicine. If a child cries, they give him opium, if they can't sleep, they use opium, if an infant coughs, they give them opium."
The center is running an outreach program to the areas that are most afflicted, according to CNN, but, still, most Afghans aren't aware of the health risks of opium and only a few are beginning to understand the hazards of addiction.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.