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Methadone banned in Crimea, to be removed from clinics and hospitals

SIMFEROPOL, April 02, /ITAR-TASS/. Some 50-80 kg of methadone, a narcotic drug used in the treatment of drug addiction, will be removed from medical facilities in Crimea following the ban on its use on the peninsula, Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) chief Viktor Ivanov said on Wednesday, April 2.

He said the methadone-based treatment of drug addicts used in Ukraine would be terminated in Crimea. “The methadone that is kept in legal institutions - some 50 to 80 kilograms - is to be removed,” Ivanov said, adding that measures would also be taken to eliminate illicit distribution of methadone in Crimea.

He stressed that the methadone-based treatment had proved ineffective. “Methadone therapy is not allowed by Russian standards,” the official added.

Methadone has become a criminal business in Ukraine. Ivanov said its efficacy was not clinically proved, but there was hard statistics showing that the number of deaths from its use in the United States and Great Britain had increased considerably as addiction to methadone is much stronger than that to heroin.

“Methadone is not a cure. Practically all methadone supplies in Ukraine were circulating on the secondary market and distributed as a narcotic drug in the absence of proper control. As a result, it spread to the shadow market and traded there at much higher prices. It became a source of criminal incomes,” Ivanov said.

He said that 200 million U.S. dollars were spent in Ukraine for methadone therapy. Russian specialists and their colleagues in other countries, including the U.S., do not recognise it as a means of efficient treatment.

There are twice as many drug addicts in Crimea as in Russia, Ivanov said. He described the drugs situation on the peninsula as “difficult” and blamed it on unemployment, available resources for making poppy straw, closeness to Turkey, which is a transit country for Afghan heroin, and circulation of methadone in Ukraine.

Ivanov admitted that there were 700 drug addicts per 100,000 people in Crimea and blamed it, among other things, on the large-scale drug production in Afghanistan from which it is transported to other countries across the Black Sea.

Heroin production in Afghanistan has increased 40 times over the past ten years. More than 90 percent of all heroin is made in Afghanistan. The Helmand province alone makes more than 60 percent of it, Ivanov said.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) issued a call for urgent action to deal with the growing opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, which has hit a record high this year, rising by 36 percent, while production is up by almost half since 2012.

According to the 2013 Afghanistan Opium Survey, released in Kabul by the Ministry of Counter Narcotics and UNODC, the area under cultivation rose to 209,000 hectares from last year’s total of 154,000 hectares, exceeding the peak of 193,000 hectares reached in 2007.

Almost 90 percent of opium poppy cultivation this year remained confined to nine of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, including those most affected by the insurgency. Helmand, the principal poppy-producer since 2004 and responsible for nearly half of all cultivation, expanded the area under cultivation by 34 percent, followed by Kandahar, which showed a 16 percent rise, UNODC said.

According to UNODC, Afghanistan accounts for more than 70 percent of narcotic drugs made in the world. Afghanistan supplies 90 percent of the world’s opium, most of which goes through Iran and Pakistan. The three countries have been involved in the UNODC-sponsored Triangular Initiative to coordinate their efforts to combat trafficking since 2007.

Drugs pose a threat to the health and security of not only Afghanistan, but Iran and Pakistan as well, and many other countries, including Russia and the European Union.

Afghan heroin has literally flooded Russia and the European Union. Ninety percent of all drug addicts in Russia - about 660,000 people according to official information and 2-5 million according to unofficial estimates - are addicted to Afghan heroin and opium. Afghanistan makes so many opiates in just one year that it can kill 10 million drug users. Moreover, Afghanistan has turned into the sole producer of almost all of the world’s heroin before the eyes of the 140,000-strong military armada from nearly 50 countries which ventured to help that country cope with terrorism and build democracy.