Russia Drug Abuse Information

Moscow Russia

Before the USSR was dismantled, Russia did not participate significantly in the international narcotics markets as a consumer of illicit drugs. With the approach of the new millennium, this situation began to change dramatically. Now, Russia possesses the world’s fastest-growing drug trafficking and abuse problem without having adequate prevention or treatment programs in place.

Russia covers more than six and a half million square miles. It stretches from China and Japan in the East to Europe in the West, spanning eleven time zones. Nearly 142 million people live in Russia but much of the country is very sparsely populated. Population density occurs mostly in the western and southern portions of the country.

According to the head of the Russian Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics, there was a fifteen-fold rise in the number of drug-related crimes between 1996 and 2006, and a ten-fold increase in the number of drug users. As addiction grows, it spreads across the face of Russia. In 1985, the Ministry of Internal Affairs identified four regions in Russia that had more than 10,000 serious abusers of drugs. By the year 2000, more than thirty regions claimed this number of abusers.

The causes of this explosion are deeply embedded in the social and economic changes experienced in the last two decades.

The Patterns of Trafficking into Russia

The major factors behind the increase in drug trafficking into Russia are these:

  1. In the economic chaos that followed the political changes of the early 90s, organized crime groups arose to develop a growing drug trafficking operations that resulted in huge profits for them, particularly in increasing the amount of heroin that flowed into Russia from nearby Afghanistan.
  2. Citizens of economically-depressed countries adjacent to Russia found drug trafficking a fast and relatively easy way to generate income.
  3. And traffickers of synthetics and cocaine discovered a new, untouched market.

Afghanistan is the world’s leading producer of opium poppies, and there are hundreds of refining labs in Afghanistan, many right along the Tajikistan border, turning poppy resin into heroin. Opium and heroin flow from Afganistan into Tajikistan and from there are carried into Kazakhstan, which shares a long, sparsely-patrolled border with Russia. By rail, air, and truck, the drugs are then conveyed to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Irkutsk plus many other cities. Ironically, some of this trafficking follows ancient trade routes that carried silks, spices, frankincense and other goods between the Orient and Europe.

Newer channels bring synthetic drugs such as fentanyl and Ecstasy or other stimulants from Europe into Russia. Cocaine has recently made its way from South American through Spain into the hands of Russia’s new glittering socialites who consume the drug in hundreds of urban nightclubs.

The appeal of trafficking is somewhat explained by the economic hardships suffered in many countries surrounding Russia. In these countries, a hard-working citizen may only make $25 a month. A person who has a mule and who is willing to transport drugs across the Kazakhstan border into Russia can make that amount in a few hours. Ironically, those who carry drugs across a border by hiding them on or in their bodies are also called “mules.”

Russia’s border with Kazakhstan is notoriously porous, with little funding or training for border guards and hundreds of miles of unpatrolled fences. At one time, drug-sniffing dogs were provided to border outposts but were left to starve when guards sold their food for extra money.

Aggravating the porous border is the corruption of law enforcement officials, including police and customs officials. Some sources estimate that no more than 10 percent of drugs being brought across borders are detected. Even when drug dealers are arrested, they are normally small-time dealers. Key figures in international trafficking never seem to be apprehended.

Perhaps in a moment of desperation, the Mayor of Moscow suggested in 2007 that Russia should implement drug laws like those in Singapore where drug traffickers face execution.

The Effects of Addiction on the Russian People

Nearly half million drug abusers are officially registered with the state but registration can lead to discrimination. Registered abusers can’t obtain some kinds of jobs and are denied driver’s licenses. Nearly 90 percent of the registered abusers are addicted to opiates such as heroin and opium. When people are removed from this list, it’s not usually because they recover, it’s because they die - the life expectancy of an addict in Russia is between four and four and a half years. Even when an abuser is registered, fewer than 10 percent ever make it into a state-run drug treatment facility.

Tragically, addiction is hitting young people the hardest. The majority of drug addicts are between 16 and 30 years of age. In the last decade, the age of “first use” dropped from 17 to 14 years.

Figures on how many Russians are using drugs or are addicted to either drugs or alcohol vary greatly. No two reports provide the same figures. One report estimated that 70,000 Russians die from drug overdoses. Additionally, another report stated that 50,000 more people die each year from alcohol abuse. What makes this heartbreaking scene worse is the scarcity of effective drug rehabilitation in the country.

Drug Rehabilitation Choices in Russia

The Russian state’s drug treatment technology is referred to as “narcology.” It is an outgrowth of old Russian psychiatry. Treatment may consist only of a heavily medicalized detoxification or may be followed with a course of antipsychotic medications or barbiturates. Drug or alcohol rehabilitation treatment centers that offer more extensive treatment are likely to use hypnotic techniques to implant the idea in the addict that if they drink or use drugs again, they will die.

Drug rehabilitation centers may resemble jails more than treatment facilities, complete with shackles, bars, and cells. In 2006, 45 women were killed when a fire broke out at one treatment facility whose bars made it impossible for the patients to escape the flames.

Only about a third of Russia’s regions have any treatment facilities at all. And the results from treatment facilities, when they do exist, are disappointing. Some reports state that 90 percent of addicts relapse in a year or less. In very few cases do any drug treatment centers attempt to teach an addict how to live a drug-free life. Despite these failures, a survey showed that the majority of narcologists are satisfied with the field and do not think that major changes are needed.

Narconon help for the addicted

Narconon employs a holistic rehabilitation program that focuses on nutrition and life skills. Using vitamin and mineral supplements and a unique sauna detox protocol, participants flush drug residues from their bodies and overcome the fogginess and lack of clarity that accompanies drug use. From there, they use counseling and life skills classes to restore their own personal integrity and learn how to create a new, drug-free life for themselves.

Narconon Standard drug treatment center in Moscow
Narconon Standard Drug Rehabilitation Center in Moscow

Several Narconon centers exist in Russia. Contact Narconon for information on the nearest center to you.

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