Deaths in Turkey from drug use have doubled since 2016: Interior minister
The number of people in Turkey who have died as a result of drug use doubled in 2017 from the previous year, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Jan. 10.
The number of such fatalities rose to 1,020 in 2017 from 520 in 2016, Soylu stated.
“As an administrator of this country I should not be having to utter these words. More precautions should be taken to prevent deaths from drugs,” he added, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Noting that he recently met with Afghanistan’s interior minister on the issue of illegal migration and drug use, Soylu said 4.5 million tons of opium are produced in Afghanistan annually and the market value there has risen to $1.4 billion.
“We in Turkey have seized around 20 tons of heroin this year. That means we must seize 40 tons of heroin in 2018,” he added.
In 2015-16, the Turkish authorities reportedly seized just five tons of heroin.
“We have two years ahead of us. Our advantages are as clear as the threats we face. What we need to do is complete our tasks as soon as possible,” Soylu said, adding that he recently visited the eastern border provinces of Ağrı and Iğdır, where smuggling is among the mainstays of the local economy.
He had stirred controversy on Jan. 3 after saying police officers should “break the legs” of all drug dealers.
“Regardless of how much they will criticize or condemn me for saying this, when a drug dealer is seen outside a school, it is the police’s duty to break that drug dealer’s legs,” Soylu said during a “General Security and Struggle against Drugs Meeting” in Ankara.
The remarks drew condemnation, with opposition politicians and lawyers filing criminal complaints against Soylu for encouraging anti-judicial measures.
In response to the comments, Prime Minister Binanli Yıldırım warned on Jan. 5 that “no one is above the law, whether be it a minister or a prime minister.”
Amid the outcry, Soylu told daily Hürriyet he had made the remarks to “draw attention to the issue.”
Commenting on drug seizures by the authorities, Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdağ had stated on Nov. 26, 2017 that the amount of drugs seized in Turkey surpasses the amount seized in all European countries combined.
“This is because drug traffickers use [Turkey] as a transit route. But the high figure actually shows the great success of our Interior Ministry and the police department in making these seizures,” Akdağ said in an interview on private broadcaster CNN Türk on Nov. 26.
“Only a small proportion of the drugs that enter Turkey are actually used in Turkey,” he added, noting that the government is planning to establish a special commission to fight against addictions.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ülkümen Rodoplu, the founding president of the Emergency Medicine Association of Turkey, recently warned of the decreasing age of drug users in the country.
“In [the western province of İzmir] last week, a nine-year-old child was brought to the hospital for addiction treatment,” Rodoplu, a council member of the European Society of Emergency Medicine, told daily Hürriyet on Dec. 25.