Heroin dogs of Kabul: Photos show homeless addicts feeding the local strays ...

Heroin dogs of Kabul: Photos show homeless addicts feeding the local strays ...
Heroin dogs of Kabul: Photos show homeless addicts feeding the local strays ...

It's not uncommon to see men smoking heroin between the blast walls near Shahr-e Naw Wedding Hall in southwest Kabul. Opioid use is prolific in the Afghan capital, despite the Taliban pledging to ban the production of drugs and tackle narcotics addiction under their rule.

But what may be more surprising to those passing through the area is the disturbing sight of heroin being fed to the stray dogs that roam the area.

Ahmad (not his real name) has been smoking heroin for several years, feeding his addiction through a mixture of stealing, begging and collecting plastic bottles for recycling. A mixed-breed stray dog, likely born on the streets of Kabul, lies nearby. Ahmad places a plastic bottle tight over the dog's nose and blows heroin smoke through the open top. After a few 'hits' the subdued dog stands and stares.

A series of disturbing photos taken in southwest Kabul show homeless addicts feeding heroin to the stray dogs that roam in the area to encourage the animals to stay close to the men and provide them with warmth and companionship

A series of disturbing photos taken in southwest Kabul show homeless addicts feeding heroin to the stray dogs that roam in the area to encourage the animals to stay close to the men and provide them with warmth and companionship 

One of the homeless men explains that giving heroin to the stray dogs – which appear to be suffering the same effects of addiction as you would see in humans – means they return each night and provide both body heat and comfort to the addicts.

After seizing power in August, the Taliban said it was committed to stamping out narcotics addiction and eliminating all drug production and smuggling in Afghanistan. There have been reports in Kabul of Taliban policemen rounding up and beating homeless drug addicts or forcibly taking them to rehabilitation centres.

The homeless men in Shahr-e Naw are fearful that they will be beaten or worse if they are discovered smoking heroin, as they have heard of addicts being killed by the Taliban. A friend of Ahmad, who has been addicted to drugs for eight months, cries while holding the heroin behind his back. 'I did not know if I used drugs my life would be like this and I would lose my family,' he says. 'I've memorised the Quran. I'm not a bad person, I'm in a deep well I can't get out of.'  

One of the homeless men places a plastic bottle tight over the dog's nose and blows heroin smoke through the open top, leaving the dog subdued and suffering from similar symptoms a human would after ingesting the drug

One of the homeless men places a plastic bottle tight over the dog's nose and blows heroin smoke through the open top, leaving the dog subdued and suffering from similar symptoms a human would after ingesting the drug

Although many of the drug addicts have to work hard to make money to pay for drugs, they appear to willing to give some of this heroin to the stray dogs for the body heat they provide, especially during Afghanistan's bitterly cold winter months

Although many of the drug addicts have to work hard to make money to pay for drugs, they appear to willing to give some of this heroin to the stray dogs for the body heat they provide, especially during Afghanistan's bitterly cold winter months

The vast majority of the world's opium that's used for heroin is grown in Afghanistan's poppy fields, and some of it never leaves the country's borders but is smoked in the streets of the capital.

Ahmad and the other addicts in this drug-ravaged homeless community crumble the drug over tin foil, heat it with a lighter and use a thin straw to inhale the smoke.

Heroin is seemingly cheap in Kabul, with addicts spending around 200 Afs ($2.20) (£1.60) a day on the habit, but many will work all day and through the night for a fix.

Collecting items for recycling makes 5 Afs (6 cents) (4p) per kilogram, with tins being the prized items as they make the weight quicker, while bringing five customers to a taxi driver will make a person 10 Afs (12 cents) (8p).

This makes it surprising that addicts will waste the precious drug on stray dogs, but to Ahmad and the other men it's worth it for the companionship and warmth the animals provide, especially during Afghanistan's bitterly cold winter months.

Temperatures in Kabul regularly fall below freezing during the winter in Kabul and snowfall is frequent - which may help explain why addicts are willing to give some of their precious drugs to the stray animals to keep them close

Temperatures in Kabul regularly fall below freezing during the winter in Kabul and snowfall is frequent - which may help explain why addicts are willing to give some of their precious drugs to the stray animals to keep them close

Although there is little recent research on the effect of heroin on canines, based on what we know about opioids, veterinary surgeon Dr Guy Sandelowsky hypothesises that dogs experience a transient sense of euphoria on absorption of the drug

Although there is little recent research on the effect of heroin on canines, based on what we know about opioids, veterinary surgeon Dr Guy Sandelowsky hypothesises that dogs experience a transient sense of euphoria on absorption of the drug

The effects of heroin on a dog are concerning, Dr Sandelowsky says that not only does it put dogs at risk of a lethal overdose, it's also likely to cause long term toxicity to the liver and have profound negative effects on their quality of life

The effects of heroin on a dog are concerning, Dr Sandelowsky says that not only does it put dogs at risk of a lethal overdose, it's also likely to cause long term toxicity to the liver and have profound negative effects on their quality of life

The temperature in Kabul at this time of year ranges between 25 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 to 13 degrees Celsius), but by January the city will be colder and snowfall is frequent. In 2012, temperatures in Kabul dipped as low as 3 Fahrenheit (-16

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