Work Type


Publication Date



Liberal Arts and Sciences


Iran; Substance use Policy; Opium; History; Criminalization; Medical Approach; Public Health


The use of substances, especially opiates, has been a longstanding and significant problem in Iran. In response, Iran has experimented with a wide range of policies including nonintervention, regulation, legalization, prohibition, and criminalization. Exploring Iran’s substance use policies suggests that the Iranian government has been more concerned with byproducts of policies such as financial revenue, promoting diplomacy, and maintaining power, rather than genuinely alleviating the substance trade and addiction. First, we explore how opium taxation was the core substance use policy before oil became the main source of government income. Second, we discuss how conflicts of power between the health sector and other stakeholders relegated the role of the health sector and medical professionals. Lastly, we analyze the post-1979 revolution policies when Iran experienced social desolations, such as during the Iraq-Iran war and the subsequent economic recessions. We reveal that stigmatization and scapegoating of people who use substances have been used as a cover-up to obscure deeper social problems. This historical analysis ultimately reveals that Iran’s substance use policies have largely neglected medical approaches in favor of more oppressive, but politically expedient options.


This is a preprint article.

Copyright: © 2023 Emran Razaghi et al. This is an open access publication distributed under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.



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