Russia and WHO and methadone therapy

Moscow, 19.06.2015

Deputy Speaker of the Duma and member of the State Anti-Drugs Committee, Zheleznyak thinks the position of the Who and other international organisations  contains a number of inconsistencies. The divide between the official Russian position and the international drugs authorities concerns the use of methadone therapy as a substitute for heroin by intravenous drug users. In Russia the use of methadone therapy is banned. The ban has been criticised by international experts. In 2010 a complaint against the ban was submitted to the European Court of Human Rights but the latter has not yet ruled on it. The issue became even more acute after Crimea was annexed by Russia. In May 2014 800 addicts in therapy living in Crimea were refused methadone and told to transfer to treatment consisting of complete withdrawal of drugs of any kind. “The ambiguous international assessment of Russia’s policy of treating drug addicts by withdrawing all drugs from them shows that methods of treatment in different countries need to be compared as to their results with methadone treatment”, says Nikita Lushnikov, Chair of the National Anti-narcotic Union, “We are prepared to share our positive experience of social rehabilitation and resocialisation of drug addicts with other countries.”

The WHO and other international agencies believe methadone treatment to be an effective way of combatting the spread of HIV/AIDS among opiate drug users. The Who cites the example of Spain where methadone substitution treatment was introduced in the 1990s and where HIV rates among intravenous drug users had significantly fallen by 2010; in the early 90s infection with HIV via shared syringes occurred in 6,200 cases, and in 2010 – in 690 cases. Oleg Zykov, President of the charity “No to Alcohol and Drug Addiction”, said that substitution therapy did not solve any problems, but that it was not right to refuse it to Crimeans. The only way to deal with the issue is to treat each individual. He thinks that substitution therapy is no more than a sort of motivation programme. Motivation, he said, is the biggest issue for drug users, so in this context substitution therapy can play a role in rehabilitation of addicts. But in Russia there is no understanding of the importance of encouraging motivation, and thus just handing out methadone would achieve nothing.

In Russia the number of intravenous drug users with HIV is rising: in 2012 there were 57,833, and in 2013, 59,549 – an increase of 17.3%.

By Dmitry Petrov

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