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Traffic police: Half of Tehran motorists tested for drugs, alcohol are under the influence - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Cars wait in traffic in Tehran in 2008 (AFP/File, Fred Dufour)

Cars wait in traffic in Tehran in 2008 (AFP/File, Fred Dufour)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Around half of all of drug and alcohol tests administered to motorists stopped by police in Tehran taken recently have shown up positive, the commander of the city’s traffic police said.

In an interview with the Fars news agency published on Monday, Hossein Rahimi, said that 272 out of 526 drug and alcohol tests conducted on motorists in the first nine months of the current Iranian calendar year [March 21–December 21] were positive.

According to Rahimi, the figures show an increase compared to the same period last year, when the rate of positive cases was around 40 percent.

The consumption, possession and trade of alcohol and drugs have been illegal in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Despite reports pointing to an increased consumption of alcohol and drugs in Iran—especially among motorists—the country’s officials have generally been reluctant to admit the problems publicly, though in recent years a change in attitudes has been visible.

A statement in 2012 by a senior Iranian health official led to a debate on how to tackle the problem.

“We receive worrying reports from hospitals and physicians about an increase in alcohol consumption in the southern districts of Tehran,” said Baqer Larijani, then head of the Health Ministry’s policy-making council.

An Iranian conservative news website wrote in May 2012 that “as the consumption of alcoholic drinks is haram [religiously forbidden], some officials are just trying to conceal the facts . . . But the lack of data on alcohol consumption and consumers is itself a serious threat.”

Even Iran’s chief of police, Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam, has criticized the attempts to hide the data on alcohol abuse.

“There have always been attempts to conceal alcohol-related problems in the country, but alcohol consumption and an increase in alcoholism are facts,” he said in July 2012.

According to the semi-official ISNA News Agency, in 2011–2012, Iranian police withdrew the driving licenses of 829 motorists, including 43 women, who had failed to pass alcohol and drug tests.

Based on statistics released in 2011, every year around 730 million US dollars’ worth of alcoholic drinks are smuggled into Iran and only 20 percent to 30 percent of the smuggled alcohol is seized by the police.

Since 2011, Iranian traffic police have stationed mobile special units across the country to test suspect motorists for alcohol, drugs and psychedelic substances.

“Aside from a fine, we will confiscate the license of all motorists found to have used psychoactive drugs or alcoholic drinks and report them to judiciary officials,” Iran’s chief traffic policeman, Eskandar Momeni was quoted by ISNA as saying.

In August 2013, Tehran issued a license for the establishment of the city’s first alcohol rehabilitation center.

According to ISNA, the head of the Public Health Department’s Addiction Prevention Center announced that the license was for a pilot project for the treatment of alcoholics in Iran’s capital.

Public Health officials claimed that such a license had been denied before by Iranian Interior Ministry.

Iran’s police chief, Ahmadi-Muqaddam, said in February 2013 that 200,000 people across the country suffered from alcohol addiction.