16 May Conversations with a hashish-addicted youth
On Thursday two weeks ago I started on the two-and-a-half-hours drive from Kabul to Jalalabad, to visit my family. I knew the road well, having traveled it numerous times before and I eagerly anticipated being home.
The Kabul River runs through Jalalabad, and as such it is a very green province. Unfortunately the citrus fruits which grew abundantly in the city during the time of Zahir Shah and Daud Khan were destroyed in the war against the Soviet Union.
My mind was on these fruits as we pulled into Jalalabad. As soon as the car came to a halt, I looked around for a taxi. I spotted a bare red car down the road and went to ask if it was free. When I peered into the window I saw two men, barely in their 20s, smoking hashish – the oily smell, so distinct from cigarettes was my first clue. It is a less common sight in Jalalabad, but not at all unusual, so we negotiated the fare and started the drive.
Based on the ease with which they smoked and their general demure as they inhaled, it was obvious that despite their youth, they had been smoking for a long time and were probably even addicted. I could not stop myself, I asked about their habit. The driver, older of the two, said he started when he was about 14 or 15.
“I was smoking hashish for pleasure with my friend, and eventually I became addicted to it. My friends were always telling me how good it could make us feel. They said, ‘you do not feel as though you are in this world, you will feel like you flying, smoking hashish will make you hungry and you will be able to eat a lot of food.’ I had a weak digestive system and was not able to eat much, so I started smoking.”
Very much intrigued by his description I asked how things have changed since then. He described how happy he had felt, how well he had slept, and how good his diet had been. “But, now it is the other way around.” While it seems he enjoyed it in the earlier years, he cannot escape from it today. “So far I have not seen any advantage from this.” Spending half his income from driving taxis to support his habit has not only been a financial waste, but has also contributed to his physical deterioration. Moreover, he adds, “my mind is not working properly. It has changed my behavior for the worse. Most of the time I have stomachaches and my digestive system is not working properly. I do not have stamina and tolerance. Beside this, it is also having another negative impact, for example my reputation in the community.”
He spoke of how his father informed him of the many disadvantages and tried to help him. But despite promising to quit, he found it increasingly difficult to do so. “When my father understood that I was continuing, he tried to stop me by beating me.”
When the beating failed his father locked him in a room and seeing no success, tied him to a tree for days. His father scolded him, “You are going to destroy your own life smoking hashish like this.” However, it was all futile. The young man now understood he had already all but destroyed his life, and needed professional treatment at a hospital and the support of his friends and family to quit.
We reached the gate to my house as he finished telling his story. As I turned to pay the fare, he sighed and said to be in Pasto, “Allah talaa de har kas de chars sakawalo aw charsi kedo na wasati. Da yaw deer bad shai dee.”
May Almighty Allah keep every person from smoking hashish. It is a very bad thing.
AREU Sr. Research Assistant Ihsanullah Ghafoori has been with AREU since 2009, researching a range of topics, including local governance and urban governance, social protection, water governance, and more recently livelihoods.