The Great Russian Drug Epidemic

The largest country in the world, Russia also has the biggest drug-injecting population of any country in the world. A 2012 article in The Lancet reported that around 1.8 million Russians inject drugs.

Of this number, around one-third suffer from HIV, while in other regions, about three-fourths of the drug-injecting population has HIV. Additionally, 90 percent of Russian drug addicts struggle with hepatitis C, and many also suffer from tuberculosis. The number of drug-injecting addicts within Russia represents only a small portion of the total 7.3-8.5 million drug abusers in Russia.

This is quite similar to the epidemic of drug addiction within the United States. The National Institute on Drug Abuse noted that 24.6 million Americans twelve years old or older abused drugs in 2013. This total amounted to 9.4 percent of the total American population. Millions of Americans, then, display signs of crack cocaine abuse and addiction to other drugs.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs recognized the Russian’s government efforts to stop the drug addiction crisis sweeping the former Soviet Union. The Russian government developed the State Counternarcotics Strategy until 2020. The Russians have sought to target the demand for the drugs themselves. The demand, the Russian government found, comes from poor healthcare treatment and social services, a small number of rehab centers, and a shortage of doctors and social workers. The few drug rehab services that are available have been deemed ineffective and see very high numbers of recidivism, in which Russians attending drug treatment end up abusing the same drugs again.

As of late, drug treatment centers in St. Petersburg and Orenburg have found great success with new cognitive therapeutic strategies to augment drug abuse programs. The United States and Russia have collaborated on studies to test the effects of new medication therapies involving the drug naltrexone. The Russian Orthodox Church, too, owns several faith-based treatment centers used to help Russians struggling with substance abuse. With the high number of Russians dying from drug addiction (in 2014, drugs killed 92,000 Russians between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four), Russia, like the United States, may need to develop a stronger plan to stop drug addiction, a problem that continues to impact the lives of citizens in many ways.
About the author: Tommy Zimmer is a writer whose work has appeared online and in print. His work covers a variety of topics, including politics, economics, health and wellness, addiction and recovery and the entertainment industry.

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