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Izmir Governor Yavuz Selim Köşger said Thursday that Turkey’s third-largest city had the highest rate of drug use and needed to take more measures in the fight against addiction.
Köşger was speaking at a workshop on the fight against addiction, organized by his governorate and the local directorate of health.
Although the police have stepped up efforts against dealers and shipments, the addiction remains a reality for the city, according to the governor. Last year alone, more than 25,000 counternarcotics operations were carried out in Izmir.
The governor said only one out of every 10 addicts was “rehabilitated” on average, and they have to take preventive measures as the rehabilitation was harder than ensuring people avoid drug use by cutting off access to drugs. He also lamented that the drugs fuelled other crimes as well. “In Izmir, drug addiction is, unfortunately, the basis of many crimes. We are aware that people involved in thefts are mostly committing robberies, thefts to purchase drugs,” he said.
Speaking at the workshop, Izmir Directorate of Health head Mehmet Burak Öztop said that they have seven centers to help and counsel the addicts, adding that three more will open this year. Öztop said the city already had an addiction treatment center for addicts of drugs and other harmful substances for adults and a new center catering to juvenile addicts will be set up at the Tepecik Training and Research Hospital.
Although local drug use is low, it remains a concern for authorities, who launched a string of projects to crack down on drug use in recent years. Police established special teams to patrol areas where drug use and sale activity are likely to increase, including near the perimeters of schools and abandoned buildings. It also runs hotlines for families concerned about the suspected drug use of their children.
Turkey had stepped up counternarcotics efforts five years ago when the yearly drug-related deaths reached 941. In 2021, this number dropped to around 190, while authorities increased the number of counternarcotics operations, with the assistance of new police units, such as “narco teams” deployed around schools and other places where children are exposed to drug use risk.
The country lies at a crossing point between Asia and Europe, a route exploited by drug smugglers bringing “organic” drugs from Asian countries to European markets and carrying synthetic drugs produced in European drug labs to Asian countries, including Turkey.