DUSHANBE -- A senior Red Cross official says he believes the number of drug addicts in Tajikistan is eight to 13 times the 8,000 that officials there claim, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Massimo Barra, chairman of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Standing Commission, said at the end of a five-day visit to Tajikistan that most influential UN agencies are similarly worried that the number of addicts in Tajikistan is far higher than the official estimate.
He put the number at between 60,000 and 100,000 people.
Mahmadrahim Malakhov, head of Tajikistan's narcotics center in Dushanbe, told RFE/RL that he agrees in principle with Barra. Malakhov said no one will come forward and admit to being an addict or that they are HIV-positive due to the stigma attached to it.
Malakhov said the proximity to Afghanistan, a huge global drug producer, and the availability of cheap heroin makes it difficult to fight drug addiction in Tajikistan.
Malakhov said the real number of drug addicts in Tajikistan could be five times higher than the official figure of 8,000.
Barra said Tajikistan's six drug-treatment centers could begin distributing methadone, which is used medically as an analgetic and substitute narcotic in treating heroin addiction.