We have been noticing quite a lot of news stories on the influx of heroin from Afghanistan into Russia in recent months, and the debate over the state’s policies to treat addiction. There seems to some level of debate over whether or not the police keep a “narcological register” of those who use drugs, which can lead to arrests when an addict seeks help (a story in the Independent from March has some good quotes on the matter). Below, an excerpt of a CNN interview with Viktor Ivanov, Russia’s anti-narcotics czar: Some believe that the punitive approach is exacerbating the problem, but Ivanov denies that the police keep lists.
Ivanov also pointed to wider socio-economic reasons for Russia’s drug problem but denied Moscow has an outdated approach to dealing with addiction, with the emphasis on punishment. For example, human rights groups claim addicts are placed on a “narcological register” and face arrest when they register for clean needles.
“Drug addicts are placed on it voluntarily,” he said. “We are not talking about forced treatment. If a person commits an insignificant crime that may be punishable in a court of law, we have special drug courts that allow an individual to opt for voluntary addiction treatment. This allows an individual to take health into his own hands.
“Our goal is to cure them. If they want to be treated anonymously, by all means, they can do so. If they want government to assistance, we are willing to help.
“The question is not about finding, registering, and punishing a drug addict. First, an addict must acknowledge his or her own sickness. Second, society must be able to offer a qualified support system.”