Crystal meth and Covid-19: Iraq battles two killer epidemics directly


“The situation in the country was rough. You go and try to find work, but there was no work,” he says. “Once, twice and I was hooked (on crystal meth). I was trapped. I couldn’t get out.”

The woman he says was the love of his life left him.

Throughout this report, Iraq’s drug users have been identified by pseudonyms to protect their privacy.

Khaled is pictured in a cell at a western Baghdad prison where he is serving a one year sentence for using crystal meth.

“We don’t have the capacity,” Col Mohammed Alwan, the commander of the drug unit in this part of the capital says. “Sometimes we have to slow down work because we don’t have the capacity to keep detainees and prisoners, especially not with the pandemic.”

He estimates that 10% of the population in his area of operations is addicted to drugs, overwhelmingly to crystal meth.

Multiple officials told CNN that the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the drug trade in Iraq.

Years of war severely fractured the Iraqi state, with various powerful armed forces operating outside of government control. Corruption is rampant, and the economy, for most Iraqis, is…