Just The Facts

Russia’s Addiction Problem

Suppressing the opioid crisis and poor treatment regimes combine for a failed strategy.

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  • Russia’s government is not very transparent about addiction in the country.
  • Russia’s addicts face stigmatization at a government level and unscientific treatment plans.
  • Russia’s drug problem was compounded by the implosion of the Soviet public health system in 1991.

1. Although it does not have the highest rate of opioid use in the world, the Russian Federation has a significant problem with abuse of synthesized opioids, such as heroin.

2. Russia ranks about even with Iran – which also has major addiction challenges – among the 30 largest economies for rate of opioid use.

3. About 2.3% of the 15-64 year-old population used opioids as of 2010, based on the last estimates the government provided to the UN.

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4. The real figure of Russian opioid users may be higher. Russia’s government is not very transparent about addiction in the country.

5. Russia’s opioid addicts struggle to deal with stigmatization at an official, government level and often face unscientific treatment plans.

6. Russia’s drug problem has been compounded by the implosion of its public health system after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

7. In addition, the treatment of drug users in sub-standard facilities has contributed to a serious outbreak of drug-resistant tuberculosis that threatens Russia’s overall population.

While neighboring countries such as Ukraine use the peer-reviewed pharmacological substitution treatments favored by the global public health community, Russia bans such treatments and methadone clinics.

9. Upon annexation to Russia from Ukraine, Crimea’s addicts suddenly found themselves without safe and proven options.

10. As in other countries, many addicts there face the added challenge of being HIV positive due to infection by needles prior to seeking clinical support.

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