Russia Losing a Generation to Heroin

Megan K. Stack has a very sad report in the Los Angeles Times today on the proliferation of heroin use in Russia, which has been dramatically increased from the booming narcotics industry coming out of Afghanistan – another thorn in the U.S.-Russia relations.  As the article shows, many regional governments are woefully unprepared to handle drug addiction epidemics.

“It’s a catastrophe for us. We were completely unprepared for this turn of events,” says Evgeny Bryun, Moscow’s chief drug addiction specialist. “We have our own lost generation.”

The transition from a Soviet state largely free from heroin to a booming nation awash in the drug has been painful and dark, marked by widespread public ignorance of the risks and symptoms of addiction, lingering shame and stigma, and muddled government efforts at treatment.

Methadone,which is widely used in the West to wean people off heroin, is illegalin Russia, and rehabilitation programs are unavailable in many parts ofthe country. In 2007, Human Rights Watch concluded that the treatmentat state drug clinics was “so poor as to constitute a violation of theright to health.”

Meanwhile, at private clinics, all manner ofexperimental treatments — including shock therapy and the removal ofparts of the brain — are in vogue. In Bryun’s government-run clinic,addicts take turns sleeping hooked up to machines that send gentleelectrical impulses through their brains, or lying encased in afull-body relaxation therapy machine.