A Heroin Addict’s Life in Tehran

Kevin Sites goes to the world’s “Hot Zones,” and reports for Yahoo News.

“In the unforgiving world of heroin addiction, 43-year-old Ali of Tehran, is a model of self-restraint. Anybody that is still alive after doing smack for 22 years — an endless cycle of searching, scoring, shooting — must know how to hold back a little.

Ali was no poster child for clean living, either. At the peak of his addiction he was pumping four-and-a-half to five grams of Afghani “brown sugar” heroin into his veins — about a $20 a day habit — a fortune in Iran, where the average income is only about $100 a month.

“I started stealing,” says Ali. “I had to.”

The Iranian government estimates there are at least two million people using drugs in a nation of 78 million. Of those, 200,000 are intravenous drug users and at least 50,000 are infected with HIV — including Ali. Now he has switched to Methadone, supplied by the Persopolis Harm Reduction Center, where they help hundreds of addicts in Tehran.

Ultimately, he says his sons are proud of him and that’s all that matters.

“They crawl all over me and kiss my face. I say don’t, you might get HIV,” Ali says. (Experts say HIV can only be transmitted through blood and bodily fluid exchange).

“‘No, we don’t care,’ they tell me. ‘We love you.'”