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Russian anti-drug chief claims growth of addiction has stopped

Published time: June 26, 2014 09:35
A Federal Service for Drug Control employee destroys syringes with dexamethasone (RIA Novosti / Oleg Zoloto)

A Federal Service for Drug Control employee destroys syringes with dexamethasone (RIA Novosti / Oleg Zoloto)

The number of people abusing drugs has stopped growing in Russia for the first time in many years, the head of the Federal Drug Control Service said in a press interview.

Viktor Ivanov told the Russian government’s daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta that although it was too early to claim victory over drugs, it was absolutely clear that the growth of addiction among the population has stopped. The interview was published in connection with the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illegal Trafficking held on June 26.

The official noted that until recently the number of illegal drug users in the country was rapidly growing – by three and a half million people in five years – and the number of drug-related death was also increasing by 5000-6000 annually. Today, although the figure remains scary at about 100,000 every year, growth has ceased, Ivanov told the newspaper.

Another positive tendency, according to Ivanov, was the burgeoning number of addicts who have voluntarily agreed to undergo treatment.

At the same time, the number of illegal drugs imported into Russia is on the rise, he said. According to the agency’s estimations, criminals smuggled about 30 tons of pure heroin into the country over the past year, or over 100 million doses.

The supply of designer drugs, cocaine and methadone, was also increasing, especially with the latter that comes from Ukraine where replacement therapy is legal. Russia does not allow it and Ivanov has repeatedly voiced his strong opposition to any sort of legalization.

In the interview, he reiterated this stance, saying that while Western officials such as US President Barak Obama were giving signals on taking steps towards legalization, some criminal syndicates, such as Japan’s Yamaguchi-gumi, are encouraging the public to start a joint fight against illegal drugs.

Ivanov acknowledged that modern society’s efforts to deal with this evil were stalled. Despite various international conventions calling to cut the crops of opium poppy, coca plants and cannabis, the area of these crops has grown two-fold over recent years. The UN-approved anti-drug memorandums seem right, but they are obsolete as they only describe some general approach to the problem, he said.

According to the Russian anti-drug boss, the best way to fight the problem is to address the social base from where the addicts usually come. However, presently very little is done in Russia in this direction and the state refuses to finance such programs, he complained.

The head of the Federal Drug Control Service also said that the recent cooling in relations between Russia and the US has not yet seriously affected the mutual anti-drug efforts. “Our service is still taking part in all international anti-drug forums. We are participating in a great number of joint operations together with our foreign colleagues. In central Asia we are currently involved in 50 such operations,” he said.