Russia to spend $6 billion to rehabilitate drug addicts

The Federal Narcotics Turnover Control Service statistics put the number of the nation’s drug addicts at 7-8 million, of whom some 600,000 are officially registered. Source: Kommersant

The Federal Narcotics Turnover Control Service statistics put the number of the nation’s drug addicts at 7-8 million, of whom some 600,000 are officially registered. Source: Kommersant

In a bid to fight a societal menace, the government will seek help from private clinics and public organisations.

A nation-wide drug addict rehabilitation system may be established in Russia for the first time. The Federal Narcotics Turnover Control Service (FSKN) has admitted that the state is facing an uphill battle against drug addiction and is planning to enlist help from private rehabs. FSKN has requested a record 180 billion roubles (about $6 billion) for the programme.

Russia’s state-owned specialised rehabilitation clinics have only 1,730 beds, while FSKN statistics put the number of the nation’s drug addicts at seven to eight million, some 600,000 of whom are officially registered.

The central idea behind the national rehabilitation system is to involve private institutions in treating addicts, because the state lacks the requisite resources.  Around 500 organisations capable of accepting up to 20,000 patients can count on public cash, including faith-based centres, private clinics providing paid services and public organisations.

The money is supposed to reach addicts via special rehabilitation certificates. To obtain one, a potential programme participant will have to sign a contract with an FSKN-certified rehab and a state authority responsible for patronage (such as a social service agency or the Police). State-sponsored rehabilitation will be possible not only on a voluntary basis but also as a compulsory measure, as an alternative to administrative punishment.

People that agree to participate in the state-sponsored rehabilitation programme will be entered into special databases accessible to law enforcement and other government agencies. In addition, as part of the programme, drug use-related psychiatric and behavioural disorders are expected to be added to the schedule of socially important and dangerous diseases. This would place drug addiction on an equal footing with plague, cholera and anthrax. Under the Law on Healthcare, this would authorise disclosure of medical records without patients’ consent.

FSKN said the programme had been cleared with all concerned agencies, above all the Health Ministry, and will imminently arrive at the Presidential Administration for clearance. It will need to be signed by the president in order to become valid.

Experts had reservations about FSKN’s programme. Alexander Savitsky, a psychologist and drug addict rehabilitation expert, said FSKN had not criteria for certifying rehabilitation, so “people that are far removed from medicine” might end up receiving the public money: “There are Holy Spirit Orthodox Brotherhood centres or Scientology centres that preach their teachings instead of providing medical care.”

Oleg Zykov, President of the No to Alcoholism and Drug Addiction foundation and a member of the Civic Chamber, doubted that the funds would be used effectively. “There are grounds for believing that, at the local level, the money could flow into accounts of entities affiliated with FSKN employees, since local anti-drug committees would be responsible for allocating the money”, he said. “Whenever the prospect of government grants arises, a lot of eager recipients appear, far from all of them acting in good faith.”

First published in Russian in Kommersant.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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