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Russia’s drug addicts may have to undergo compulsory treatment

February 14, 2013, 14:48 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, February 14 (Itar-Tass) – Russia’s drug addicts will have to undergo compulsory treatment on the basis of court orders, as follows from a bill drafted by the federal drug control service FSKN and approved by the government commission. Some specialists doubt the effectiveness of the proposed measures, though.

Under the bill, to be considered by the government soon and then handed over to the State Duma, it will be the courts’ prerogative to decide whether a drug addict should undergo compulsory treatment. The gist of the bill is drug addiction should be declared a mental disorder, with the inevitable conclusion the addict is unable to control one’s wishes and needs.

Currently drug addiction is considered as a harmful habit and any compulsion towards drug addicts is considered as a violation of the basic rights and freedoms of the person, guaranteed by article 17 of the Constitution.

It is proposed that courts should be empowered to oblige drug addicts to undergo a course of treatment, rehabilitation and a number of pre-emptive procedures.

The FSKN last year suggested introducing criminal punishment up to one year in prison for taking drugs and for reluctance to accept medical assistance.

Russia’s chief sanitary doctor, Gennady Onishchenko, has come out for the compulsory treatment idea. “It is quite obvious that there must be civilized compulsion. It is still to be decided who is to be treated in such way, how and under what circumstances,” he said.

According to the FSKN, nearly nine million people in Russia take drugs regularly. “About 8.8 million use drugs systematically, and at least 18 million have taken them at least once,” FSKN chief Viktor Ivanov said last year.

Drug-related diseases claim an annual 100,000 lives in Russia. According to UN statistics, an estimated 70 tonnes to 80 tonnes of heroin is sold in Russia every year, 3.5 times more than in Canada and the United States taken together. No more than ten percent of addicts are completely cured from the harmful habit.

Most experts, however, are skeptical about the prospects of proposed measures.

“The mechanism the FSKN has proposed is necessary, but the problem is Russia has no specialized medical institutions for its implementation. “In other words, there will be no place where the treatment might be carried out,” the daily Novyie Izvestia quotes the chief of the medical programs at the fund No to Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, Sergei Polyatykin, as saying.

Russia has no material base for the just-drafted bill, agrees lawyer Yevgeny Chernousov. “The project has no future. It is up to the individual to be eager to achieve recovery,” he said, adding that the Soviet experience in that sphere was unsuccessful. In those years special commissions of doctors merely rubber-stamped orders to all suspected drug addicts to take a mandatory course of treatment.

Compulsory treatment, as experience shows, yields no positive results, says the head of the fund New Narcopolicy, Lev Levinson. “Courts have the right to order compulsory treatment against drug addiction now, but they seldom use it, because the current system of struggle against this social ill is absolutely ineffective.”

Levinson believes that it is necessary to break the link between narcology and police.

“A visit to the narcologist in our country is seen as a punitive measure, so nobody is eager to go and ask for help,” he said. Positive results in the struggle against drug addiction can be achieved by expanding the service of anonymous narcological treatment,” he speculated.

The controversial crusader against drug addiction, founder of the City without Narcotics fund, Yevgeny Roizman, has offered his own comment on the new bill. In his blog Roizman said that in the proposed form the bill would reach nowhere.

For instance it is unclear where the drug addict is to be treated. The country has just four state-funded centers. All are ineffective, Roizman said, because there is no way of keeping patients there by force, while such treatment on the voluntary basis is impossible.

“The law on compulsory treatment should envisage the possibility of compelling the drug addict to take treatment on the basis of a court ruling. Also a newly-created large network of government-run rehabilitation centers, equipped in line with the latest achievements in medical science, must be in place, not to mention law-backed control of the achieved results,” Roizman said.

In the meantime, the Moscow City Duma has just adopted in the first reading a bill on the voluntary testing of school and university students in Moscow for drug abuse. The testing of teenagers under fifteen will be held with the parents’ consent. Those over fifteen years of age will make a decision on their own. Testing will be carried out at medical institutions, so medical confidentiality will be observed.