Inpatient Drug Treatment: The Heroin Crisis in Russia
Russia has one of the worst heroin crises in the entire world. Between two and three percent of the country’s massive population is addicted, and millions more use the drug on a semi-regular basis. Unfortunately, the Russian government is not as friendly to harm reduction programs as other European nations, and access to inpatient drug treatment is limited. If people in the United States are ever going to change drug policy at home, they need to learn from the terrible example of Russia’s heroin epidemic.
Russia’s Drug Problem
For decades, Russian dealers have imported heroin from nearby Afghanistan, where roughly ninety percent of the world’s opium is grown. Taliban rule kept production at a low level until 2001, when the United States invasion disrupted the balance of power in the region. Opium growth increased nearly three-fold, and much of the new supply was diverted to the Russian market. Over the last decade, the result has been even greater rates of heroin addiction in Russia.
Effects of Heroin
Heroin is one of the most dangerous commonly-abused drugs, and it kills roughly thirty thousand Russian addicts every year. It is known for its tendency to produce instant and intense highs, but users also suffer the following health consequences:
*Dangerously low blood pressure and heartbeat
*Track marks, scarring, and sores at injection sites
*Pneumonia and tuberculosis among smokers
*Immune system degradation
Most heroin users also risk fatal complications from needle use. HIV, Hepatitis, and other blood-borne viruses are easily transmitted through shared needles, especially in large communities of addicts. In fact, Russia also has the world’s fastest-growing HIV epidemic. Over one million of its citizens carry the disease, and the vast majority of them contracted it through needle sharing.
Krokodil: The Makeshift Killer
Heroin may be popular in Russia, but it still isn’t cheap. Many addicts have been turning to a makeshift opiate known as “Krokodil” to satisfy their cravings. This drug is synthesized from codeine, an opium derivative which is relatively easy to obtain in Russia. Dealers combine it with gasoline, paint thinner, and other household chemicals to produce an injectable substance that creates a powerful, short-lived high.
The side effects of Krokodil are utterly disastrous. Users experience rotting teeth, gangrenous skin, and massive sores at injection sites. Some addicts even lose massive segments of skin and muscle on their limbs, and overdose is even more likely than with heroin.
Treatments Available in Russia
Needle exchanges and safe injection sites have proven incredibly effective at reducing addiction and drug-related disease in other countries. Unfortunately, most Russian officials are opposed to the widespread adoption of these programs. As in the United States, they believe that harm reduction will simply encourage people to continue using drugs.
Access to clinical rehabilitation is also limited. Moscow is home to several clinics, but poor regions have very few options for addicts. These areas also tend to have the highest rates of drug addiction, as well as the largest numbers of people who use Krokodil and other homemade drugs.
Lessons for the United States
The Russian heroin epidemic parallels the United States addiction crisis in many ways. Like the US, Russia has harsh prohibitive policies and is generally hostile towards harm reduction efforts. Recent effort.ts to promote mandatory rehab for drug offenders have also met with resistance. If Americans want to truly address drug crime at home, they would do well to turn away from the policies which have been so detrimental for Russia.
If you’re struggling with heroin or any other substance, you need to get help. Addiction is a crippling disease, and continuing your drug abuse will lead to lifelong health problems. Call the number above to speak with one of our dedicated counselors about the benefits of inpatient drug treatment. Don’t wait any longer to get started on your recovery.