Drug use

   Drug use is one of Russia’s most serious social problems. Currently, it is estimated there are about 6 million people who use drugs, roughly 1 million of whom are aged 11–24. Every year, approximately 70,000 people die of drug-related causes. Russian official statistics indicate that a drug addict normally dies within four years after beginning drug use.
   The ninefold increase in drug use since 1990 has been caused by a number of factors. First, the political and economic crises of the 1990s, and especially the failure of the state to control its new borders, resulted in greater availability of drugs (particularly narcotics), greater exposure of young people to the drug culture, and the rise of drug sales as a new form of economic activity. Second, drug use has enjoyed the connotations of the liberal appeal, freedom from societal pressures, and part of a new post-Soviet glamour-based lifestyle. At the same time, drugs became the only escape for many disenfranchised Russian individuals who did not manage to fit in the new system either socially or emotionally. Finally, the rise in drug use is accounted for by the collapse of late Soviet-era drug prevention systems and medical institutions.
   The Russian Federation inherited the Soviet penalty system as regards drug abuse; the state penalizes drug users by forced registration with medical institutions, fines, and criminal conviction. These discriminating practices, as well as social stigma, discourage people from seeking support from the health care system, resulting in low rates of voluntary treatment for addiction. Many average Russians equate drug addiction with alcohol dependence and fail to report the problem at the right time. Many drug addicts live in abandoned industrial sites, or move out into the countryside where their activities often go unnoticed.
   Since 2000, there has been a positive tendency as regards the role of the state in preventing drug abuse. It appears the state began to differentiate between victims of drug addiction and drug dealers. However, state support and fair media representations are rudimentary, with the exception of a few recent films that tackle the issue of drug use, such as Igor Voloshin’s Nirvana (2008).
   See also Alcoholism; Crime.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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