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Abuse of opium remains a problem in N. Korea amid economic downturn

Several opium addicts have died recently in Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province, Daily NK has learned.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province said Monday that a man in his 50s who lived alone after his wife divorced him over his opium habit was found dead by the head of his neighborhood watch on Apr. 13 when she came by to deliver instructions regarding Kim Il Sung’s birthday on Apr. 15.

The man – who used to take opium at least twice a day – had shown signs of mental problems when he was unable to buy opium this year due to debts and worsening money problems.

Another man in his 50s – unable to work because of his opium addiction and wandering around after selling his house – was found dead on the street in March. County police confirmed his identity during an investigation.

Opium has long been known as a cure-all in North Korea and is often used as a substitute for medicine, even for relatively common ailments such as diarrhea. Many elderly North Koreans even take regular opium injections, believing that opium injections every six months will help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Because people use opium as a substitute for medicine, some take too much or too often and become addicted. The number of addicts has risen, especially in rural areas, as some people grow opium secretly in their homes to avoid crackdowns.

“People who get addicted to opium can’t stop and keep buying opium even if they have to sell all their possessions,” the source said. “Because of this, most opium addicts end up on the streets or living alone after divorce.

“Opium addicts eventually die after suffering from symptoms such as tremors, headaches and anxiety because they are starving due to lack of food and can’t buy opium due to lack of money due to the recent economic difficulties,” he added.

Hamhung residents turn to opium as a cheaper alternative to meth

In Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province, a growing number of people are seeking opium instead of relatively expensive methamphetamine, with some developing addictions.

A source in the province said Hamhung “has one of the highest rates of meth use in the country, perhaps because the drug is produced there, but recently people have started injecting opium instead because they have no money.” As a result, he said, “people are suffering after getting addicted to opium.”

He added: “People addicted to opium show all kinds of symptoms, such as mumbling and shaking like a leaf. In Hungnam District, there are about two people who show these symptoms in every neighborhood watch unit.

“They are supposed to arrest people who buy or sell drugs like opium or meth, but the police see it as a way to make money by taking bribes to cover it up. Despite the seriousness of the situation, with a growing number of addicts and people dying of addiction, the state has not responded and there are no proper crackdowns.”

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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April 24, 2024 at 12:58PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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