Russia must make the right choice on drugs
- By Richard Branson -
- Feb 10, 2012
Worrying news from Russia where Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN), the government’s anti-drugs agency has blocked the website of the public health organization, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, for discussing the use of addiction medicine methadone. The Government agency claims the Foundation is “promoting the use of drugs”, as using methadone is illegal in Russia.
Russia must change this outdated policy as it attempts to get on top of its own growing drug and HIV problem. It has one of the largest populations of injecting drug users in the world, as well as one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics. Almost one million people are living with HIV in Russia. In some places, as many as 80 per cent of those with HIV contracted the virus through contaminated needles.
Instead of treating drug use as a medical issue, Russia favours a hard-line attack on production in Afghanistan. The Government believes the US approach to Latin America – with widespread aerial fumigation of crops and support for military attacks on organised drugs cartels has worked, when in fact it has worsened the situation considerably.
It thinks by replicating this tough approach they can cut off the supply from Afghanistan. I fear this approach is wrong and will only strengthen the illegal drugs trade; leaving Russian's three million opiate users with no access to information and no hope of authorised substitution treatment.
By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group