Iran Wants Drug Addicts to be Afraid. Very Afraid.
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Iran Wants Drug Addicts to be Afraid. Very Afraid.


Out of Iran, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, comes the news that a device has been invented that can detect drugs, explosives, bodies and drug addicts from a distance of 1500 meters.

And I thought all you needed to detect a drug addict was another drug addict.

The War on Drugs

The inventor, Seyed Ali Hosseini, told Iran’s state-run Mehr News Agency that “the radar tracker was designed and built to detect drugs, explosives, bodies alive and dead under the rubble, addictive drugs and alcoholic beverages.” I don’t think this is a typo—this sentence has drugs in it twice. This Iranian scientist is serious about the detection of drugs.

As a nation, this is nothing new. Iran’s war on drugs began in earnest with the installation of the Islamic government in the 1979 revolution. With it came the belief that addiction was a moral shortcoming that could be crushed by the implementation of zero-tolerance narcotics laws. This meant strict penalties for addicts and dealers—imprisonment and harsh physical punishments, like execution. Though Iran is coming around to the idea of treatment instead of punishment (much like we are here in the US), there are still hundreds of accused drug traffickers on death row in that country.

I Fucking Love Science

According to the article, Hosseini provided a rather nebulous description of how the tracker works:

“The transmitter part consists of radio waves and radio magnets emitting waves across the earth and stimulates elements’ molecular layer and releases their ions.”


“The receiver detects ions as well as the molecular layer, then transfers waves back to the target to detect their essence.”

Now, it must be noted that historically Iran played a vital role in the Islamic Golden Age of science—producing numerous influential scientists, scholars, artists and thinkers. Could this be a bid to earn back some of that former glory? Perhaps this is what the managing director of Iran’s Center for Strategic Inventions was hoping would happen when he announced that he had built a time machine last year. Becoming irrelevant sucks.

Fear Mongering

At the conclusion of the interview, Hosseini added that the use of the device can be “applied by the police, border guards, security agents and during unexpected accidents and disasters” before ending with the claim that the tracker was capable of detecting drug addicts from a distance of almost a mile and in addition to that, determining the degree of addiction inside their bodies! From 1500 meters away.

Coming from a religious regime that sees drug use as a moral shortcoming that can be violently stomped out, this sounds like it could be maybe, oh, I don’t know, a little fear mongering? It wouldn’t be the first time that creative reportage was used to promote a position of power in Iran—in 2008, their Revolutionary Guard released a photo of a multiple missile launch that ended up gracing the front pages of several major newspapers. Imagine how red Iran’s face was when the photo was revealed to be a hoax—that one of the missiles had been duplicated and then copied and pasted back into the photograph in what could only have been a bid at demonstrating a more intimidating show of military force.

Is it really such a stretch to think that a drug addict detector might be Big Brother propaganda?

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About Author

Amanda Fletcher is the PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowship Manager. A prolific travel and freelance feature writer, her work has been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Orange County Register, Coast and Hippocampus magazines, the Ignite magazine blog, FAR & WIDE and more. Originally from Canada, she lives in Los Angeles and is currently finishing her memoir, HALO.