Central Asia and Tajikistan in particular are major players in the global illegal drug trade. Much of the opium and heroin from Afghanistan, which has accounted for as much as 75 percent of world’s heroin, makes it way through Tajikistan and Central Asia to Europe, where it is consumed. Central Asian nations also produce their own drugs and are expected to take up the slack if drug production in Afghanistan is ever to significantly drop. All this drug activity has resulted in a significant amount of local drug use and enriched local gangsters.

According to the CIA World Factbook: Tajikistan is a “major transit country for Afghan narcotics bound for Russian and, to a lesser extent, Western European markets. There is limited illicit cultivation of opium poppy for domestic consumption. Tajikistan seizes roughly 80 percent of all drugs captured in Central Asia and stands third worldwide in seizures of opiates (heroin and raw opium) It is a significant consumer of opiates. [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

In the early 2000s, drugs were openly sold at markets in Dushanbe at one hundredth of their cost in the West. Heroin is called “gera” in Tajikistan. It is considerably purer than anything found in the States or Europe and can be purchased for around $5 to $8 gram. Some users are couriers who have been paid in drugs. One Interpol spokesman told Newsweek, “Every time a country is used as a transit route, the number of addicts there rises sharply.”

According to the United Nations: “Cultivation reported in the 1999 UNODC survey occurred primarily in Leninabad (8700 m2), and RSS (8108 m2). Out of the total 1.73 ha of illicit cultivation, more than 86 percent was located in mountainous pastures. In 2006, Tajikistan reported 1.01 ha of illicit opium cultivation. No production facilities were reported. [Source: “Illicit Drug Trends in Central Asia”, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Office for Central Asia, April 2008 |~|]

Cannabis in Tajikistan

According to the United Nations: “Cannabis surveys conducted by UNODC in 1998 and 1999 suggest that cannabis production is a relatively minor problem in Tajikistan. Of a total of 3.2 ha, the majority (95 percent) was in Leninbad. Wild cannabis in Tajikistan was noted to have a very low THC content and was rarely harvested by traffickers. Most cultivation consisted of only a few plants for personal use by the grower. In 2006, Tajikistan reports 30.95 hectares of wild growth and 1.24 hectares of illicit cannabis cultivation.[Source: “Illicit Drug Trends in Central Asia”, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Office for Central Asia, April 2008 |~|]

According to Sensi Seeds: Cannabis has been utilised in Central Asia for at least 10,000 years, and is an important aspect of the indigenous culture. Tajik cannabis is generally thought to be of the indica subspecies, and is similar to Afghan in appearance and effect. Some ruderalis or sativa varieties like this specimen found in China’s Xinjiang province are probably also present in Tajikistan.” [Source: Sesheta, October 15, 2014, Sensi Seeds -]

“Tajikistan occupies an important position on the routes linking China, India, the northern Steppes and the Arab world, and as such has enjoyed a long history of cultural and economic exchange with its neighbours. There is substantial evidence of the importance of cannabis throughout the history of the region; indeed, cannabis is thought to have evolved in Central Asia, and modern testing has indicated that the centre of genetic diversity may lie in the Pamir plain in Tajikistan itself. The subspecies C. indica is generally thought to have evolved in the region comprising Kashmir, the Punjab, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and the western Tian Shan mountains.-

Cannabis use in Tajikistan

“UNODC estimates from 2000 place annual cannabis use prevalence at 3.3 percent of the adult population. In comparison, UNODC estimates in 2006 suggest that 0.5 percent of the adult population use opiates. Tajikistan records the lowest prevalence of cannabis use among youth. Results of the 2006 school survey “Lifetime use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances” indicate that lifetime use of cannabis was limited to 0.8 percent of boys and 0.2 percent of girls. The percentage who had used cannabis ten times or more in their lifetime was 0 for both genders. |[Source: “Illicit Drug Trends in Central Asia”, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Office for Central Asia, April 2008 |~|]

Cannabis use among registered drug users in Tajikistan in 2006: registered cannabis users: 533; cumulative total percent of all RDUs: 7 percent; prevalence per 100,000 population: 8.0; total registered drug users (RDUs): 7865.

Estimated annual prevalence of cannabis use as a percentage of the adult population (annual prevalence, year of estimate): 3.3, 1998. Percentage of students age 16 who reported using cannabis by frequency: lifetime use: boys: 0.8; girls: 0.2; use in the past 12 months: boys: 3.2; girls: 0.6; use in the past 30 days: boys: 2.1 girls: 0.6.

According to Sensi Seeds: “Tajikistan has serious ongoing problems with opium and heroin abuse, and cannabis use is for the most part overlooked. However, it remains illegal, and police in Tajikistan do target individuals suspected of drug use, although foreigners are less likely to be placed under scrutiny. Tajikistan’s location all but guarantees that a healthy supply of Afghani hashish is available, in almost every part of the country—although it is easier to source in urban areas such as Dushanbe. As well as this, homegrown Tajik cannabis may be found in much of the country, although it is easier to find in rural areas close to the source. Tajik cannabis is reported to be smooth, powerful and sweet-tasting, with a powerful hashy flavour and aroma.” [Source: Sesheta, October 15, 2014, Sensi Seeds -]

Cultivated and Wild Cannabis in Tajikistan

According to Sensi Seeds: “Tajikistan’s domestic cannabis industry is relatively minor, and falls far short of that seen in Kazakhstan or neighbouring Afghanistan. However, as is common throughout the region, wild cannabis can be found growing in rural areas. Closer to the Afghani landraces than to the Kazakhstani or Kyrgyz varieties, Tajik cannabis is reported to be potent, flavoursome and richly aromatic—although there is substantial natural variation, and some reports state that wild Tajik cannabis contains very little THC and is rarely harvested by traffickers. It is generally thought that the cannabis growing in Tajikistan is of the indica subspecies, but it is likely that some areas also support populations of ruderalis. According to the FAO, cannabis is one of the two main indigenous fibre crops found in Tajikistan. Tajikistan’s long growing season allows for two or three crops to be harvested each year. [Source: Sesheta, October 15, 2014, Sensi Seeds -]

“Cultivation of cannabis is well established in rural areas, particularly in the northwestern province of Sughd and in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. Anecdotal reports state that there are established landrace strains with unique characteristics in several of the areas where cannabis is commonly found—such as the Amu Darya valley that lies between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which is known in cannabis breeding circles for being the home of a remarkably stable Kush variety that thrives in the wild, with abundant resin production and a spicy, ‘hashy’ aroma. It is possible to source Tajik landrace seeds online, but it is not always possible to be sure of their provenance.-

“It is likely that the vast majority of domestic production is intended for domestic consumption—but as Tajik-produced opium has reportedly been confiscated in Russia, it may be that cannabis too is being exported in minor quantities. There is no reliable evidence of hashish production occurring in Tajikistan, but as it is situated so close to several major hashish-producing countries, is it all but inevitable that some small-scale production does occur, even if only for personal consumption.-

Cannabis Seizures and Eradication in Tajikistan

According to Sensi Seeds: As with other former Soviet states, Tajikistan underwent a series of large-scale eradication efforts in the 1980s, which largely proved unsuccessful. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, eradication efforts were downsized, although they still continue to this day, and have increased in scale in recent years as increased US attention is being paid to the nation. Statistics on eradications are patchy—in 1994, fifty-one cannabis plantations and thirty-two hectares of wild cannabis were destroyed in the first six months of the year. In 2006, just over thirty-two hectares were reported to be destroyed. In 2009, one of the largest operations in recent years, it was reported that over 500,000 cannabis plants were discovered, distributed between several large wild plantations all located in the Sughd province in northern Tajikistan. Approximately 1,000 wild plants were also destroyed in Darvoz in Gorno-Badakhshan. The wild crop of 2009 was larger than previous years as drought conditions had ended and normal rainfall had resumed. [Source: Sesheta, October 15, 2014, Sensi Seeds -]

“Seizures in Tajikistan have fluctuated somewhat in recent years, although overall it appears that cannabis seizures are following the same upward trend seen throughout Central Asia. Contraband seized by Tajik counternarcotics authorities in amounted to 6.5 metric tons in 2013; the vast majority of seizures took place in Khatlon province bordering Afghanistan or in Dushanbe. Opium trafficking is of greatest concern to regional authorities, and as a result, many farmers in Afghanistan and possibly Tajikistan have switched from growing opium poppies to growing cannabis, as it invites far less attention and is less likely to be subject to eradication efforts. In the near future, cannabis is likely to become even more important to the region, as there is little sign of development occurring on any meaningful level.-

“In March 2014, Tajik authorities reportedly burned over 722kg of seized contraband, including 43kg of heroin and 11kg of opium. It is likely that the majority of the remainder was cannabis and hashish. The day prior to the burning, police had seized 97kg of hashish from an individual detained while driving through the village of Khusheri.-

“In 2006, law enforcement agencies in Tajikistan seized 1,305.5 kilograms of cannabis. Seizures in Tajikistan have fluctuated over the last decade, although not to the extremes seen in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Cannabis seizures peaked in 2003 at 1,434.9 kilograms and bottomed out in 1996 at 86.0 kilograms. Given that cannabis seizure have been increasing for the past 3 years and that the 2006 seizure volume is only 8 percent lower than Tajikistan’s recorded high in 2003, cannabis seizures may be following the rising trend seen is Kazakhstan. In 2006, the vast majority of seizures (86 percent) took place in Khatlon (1,117.1 kilograms). |~|

“In August 2014, it was reported that the ‘largest cannabis delivery channel’ into Russia had been blocked following a complicated and protracted international operation which lasted several months. As a result, 100kg of cannabis was seized, and three people were arrested. In January 2013, a 50-year-old Afghan man was detained near the Tajik-Afghan border with over 65kg of cannabis and charged with international trafficking.-

Synthetic Drugs and Inhalants in Tajikistan

According to the United Nations: “Among registered drug users in Tajikistan, 55 are reportedly solvent addicts, and 243 are reported as “other”, possibly including synthetic drug addicts. “Results of the 2006 school survey “Lifetime use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances” suggest that general and synthetic drug use was nearly non-existent among young people in Tajikistan (0.7 percent and 0.01 percent respectively). For lifetime use, the most frequent synthetic drugs used were inhalants (2.1 percent) with no other synthetic drug having greater than 0.1 percent reported use. Within the last 12 months, 6.1 percent of boys and 3.2 percent of girls reported using inhalants. Synthetic drug use among young people, while not common, is limited to the use of inhalants and is more common than cannabis use. [Source: “Illicit Drug Trends in Central Asia”, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Office for Central Asia, April 2008 |~|]

Percentage of students in Tajikistan who reported synthetic drug use within the past 12 months and 30 days: Tajikistan: Used once or more in the past 12 months: inhalants: boys: 8.4; girls: 4.2; ecstasy: boys: 0; girls: 0; steroids: boys: 0; girls: 0; Used once or more in the past month: inhalants: boys: 2.1; girls: 3.6.

Synthetic drug use among registered drug users, 2006: Ephedra: 0; Hallucinogens: 0; Sedatives: 0; Solvents & Tranquilizers: 55; Polydrugs: 0; Other: 243. The generic categories “other” and “poly-drug” may or may not include synthetic drug use. |~|

Percentage of students age 16 who reported never using drugs in their lifetime: Tajikistan: any drug use: 99.3; amphetamine: 100; LSD: 100 crack: 99.9; ecstasy: 99.9; GHB: 100; inhalants: 97.9 steroids: 100.

Drug Related Crime in Tajikistan

According to the United Nations: “Drug related crime in Tajikistan is very low. At 11 crimes per 100,000 people in 2006, the incidence of drug related crime is substantially lower than the regional average of 41 crimes per 100,000. Drug related crime has followed the general pattern observed elsewhere in the region with rising crime figures between 1996 and 2001, followed by declining figures for 2002-2005, rising again in 2006. The same pattern is loosely followed for drug related convictions. Given Tajikistan’s position as the drug gateway to Central Asia, it is peculiar that drug related crime and convictions are the lowest in Central Asia. In 2006, drug related crime increased by 17 percent. However, this figure is still the second lowest (after 2005) for the entire 1996-2006 period. [Source: “Illicit Drug Trends in Central Asia”, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Office for Central Asia, April 2008 |~|]

Drug Related Crimes in Tajikistan: 1,727 in 1995; 1,150 in 1996; 1,116 in 1997; 1,346 in 1998; 1,908 in 1999; 1,922 in 2000; 1,949 in 2001; 1,087 in 2002; 877 in 2003; 754 in 2004; 620 in 2005; 713 in 2006.

Drug Related Crime Offenders in Tajikistan: 1,107 in 1995; 903 in 1996; 874 in 1997; 1,005 in 1998; 1,493 in 1999; 1,859 in 2000; 1,922 in 2001; 1,290 in 2002; 822 in 2003; 834 in 2004; 911 in 2005; 726 in 2006.

“Sub-nationally, the highest absolute number (240) and prevalence (39 per 100,000) of drug related crime occurred in Dushanbe city. Dushanbe also has five times the national average prevalence of drug users and two and a half times the national HIV prevalence. GornoBadakhshan registers the second highest drug-related crime prevalence, as well as substantially above average registered drug users and HIV prevalence. |~|

Main Drug Related Crimes Registered in Tajikistan: A) Smuggling: 18 in 2006; B) Storage: 195 in 2005; 213 in 2006; C) Distribution: 428 in 2005; 447 in 2006; D) Cultivation: 32 in 2005; 39 in 2006.

Heroin and Opium Abuse in Tajikistan

In the early 2000s, opium and heroin were openly sold at markets in Dushanbe at one hundredth of their cost in the West. Heroin is called “gera” in Tajikistan. It is considerably purer than anything found in the States or Europe and can be purchased for around $5 to $8 gram. Some users are couriers who have been paid in drugs. One Interpol spokesman told Newsweek, “Every time a country is used as a transit route, the number of addicts there rises sharply.”

According to the United Nations: 81 percent of Tajikistan’s 7,865 drug abusers use heroin. Injecting is the most frequently used means of administering opiates. There are about 119.1 drug users per 100,000 people, almost a third of the numbers observed in Kazakhstan. However, prevalence of heroin use among drug abusers is significantly greater in Tajikistan than in any other Central Asian state. Heroin is the overwhelming drug of choice in all regions in the country ranging from 61 percent of all registered drug users in Khatlon to 93 percent of all registered drug users in Sogd. [Source: “Illicit Drug Trends in Central Asia”, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Office for Central Asia, April 2008 |~|]

“Compared to the registered number of drug users, UNODC estimates that more than 0.5 percent of the total adult population between 15 – 64 years of age, corresponding to about 20,000 people, regularly use opiates. This is the lowest rate in all of Central Asia. |~|

“The majority of registered drug users are located in the capital, Dushanbe, which records five times the average prevalence and the highest prevalence in Central Asia.3 In 2006 there were 679 registered drug users per 100,000 people, 84 percent of whom used heroin, and 56 percent were injecting drug users. In contrast to Dushanbe, there were only 750 registered drug users in the remaining Republican Subordinated Regions (RSS) or 49 drug users per 100,000 people. The RSS has the lowest injecting drug use prevalence at 33 percent of all registered drug users. |~|

“Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), located in eastern Tajikistan, is a sparsely populated, remote and mountainous region. The majority of the population lives very close to the Afghan border or to the Pamir Highway, which connects Tajikistan to Osh, Kyrgyzstan. GBAO has the highest rate of opiate use among the adult population outside Dushanbe. Estimated opiate use prevalence is 0.5 percent or 600 users. The number of registered drug abusers up to December 2005 was 480 per 100,000 people with the majority (70 percent) using heroin. GBAO has the smallest proportion of injecting drug users in Tajikistan among the total population regularly using opiates (72 percent). |~|

“Sogd Oblast is Tajikistan’s northernmost oblast which straddles known drug transportation routes connecting Dushanbe with Uzbekistan i.e., Samarkand, Tashkent and the Ferghana Valley. The major population centres are Khujand and to a lesser extent Chkalovsk. The estimated prevalence of opiate users among the adult population of Sogd aged 15 – 64 years is 0.3 percent, or an estimated 2,600 persons, with more than 90 percent administering opiates by injecting. Heroin is the most commonly used opiate. As of December 2005, 65 per 100,000 people had registered in Sogd as drug users, with more than 90 percent using heroin. |~|

“Khatlon Oblast in the south of Tajikistan is the most populated region comprising almost a third of Tajikistan’s population. Notably, the city of Kurgan-Tyube is located on the major road and railway links between Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. In Kurgan-Tyube, the rate of registered drug users was 604 per 100,000 people contrasting with 165 per 100,000 in Kulyab. An estimated 60 percent of drugs entering Tajikistan from Afghanistan are trafficked through this region. Despite this, opiate use prevalence in Khatlon is estimated at only 0.2 percent of the adult population (15 – 64 years), or around 1,700 people. Heroin was the main opiate used, with almost 90 percent of users injecting. |~|

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated April 2016

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.