None of the human addictions generates such interest and controversy as drug addiction. Trying to solve the problem many countries take drastic and, sometimes, comic measures.

Hence, last summer Russian authorities banned curled parsley. People still can eat it, but not keep or sell its seeds, as the seed oil can be used for drug production. While Russian authorities are banning more and more garden greens, Bolivian farmers openly cultivate coca, used to produce cocaine. Bolivian president Evo Morales even calls upon the United Nations to exclude coca from the list of forbidden plants. He blatantly chews coca leaves at every international summit and calls everyone to follow his example. His friend and colleague president of Venezuela Ugo Chaves shares the view. However, it does not mean all South American countries stand for legalization of drugs. In Mexico, for example, the local authorities have declared war to drug cartel, and since 2006 about 50 thousand people have been brought to account, including drug dealers and police officers.

On the other side of the planet - south-eastern Asia - the situation differs from the Carribian soft policy. In China, for example, drug dealers are publicly prosecuted and executed. The death penalty for drug dealing exists in Egypt, Thailand, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Malaysia. Moreover, in some Islamic countries the death penalty is applied even for drinking alcohol. 

A close call doesn't count at all

In Ukraine, as well as in the majority of countries, the illegal drug turnover carries a criminal responsibility: 3-10 years of imprisonment for production and distribution and up to three years for personal use. However, there have been propositions lately to separate dealers from drug addicts, as psychiatry considers the drug addiction as illness. The State service on drug control has proposed to decriminalize the article on drug use and not to send drug addicts to jail, unless they distribute drugs or forces others into use. "We need not penal, but preventive approach. These people are sick, and they must be treated, not punished," head of the State service on drug control Volodymyr Tymoshenko believes. Former interior minister Anatoly Mohyliov once announced similar initiative. He called upon law enforcements to focus on drug dealers.

The logic of the State service and Interior Ministry becomes clear if we look at the statistics. As ForUm learned from the Health Ministry specialist on narcology Oleksandr Minko, there are 77.1 thousand Ukrainian registered for treatment. In 85% of cases, they are city residents. Another 37.7 thousand people, including 774 children under 15, are subjected for preventive measures. Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa and Kyiv regions are the absolute leaders on drug distribution. However, according to the public centers on resocialization of drug addicts, the actual number of drug addicts in Ukraine amounts to between one and three million people. According to the Interior Ministry data, 53 thousand of crimes committed last year were related to drug dealing, which is 11% of the total number of crimes registered for 2011. In 24 thousand cases, the offenders were sentenced for dealing, while the rest of the convicted were imprisoned for personal use only.

Forbidden fruit

UN research results show that so far the prohibitive measures have failed to stop the drug turnover. The world turnover of heroin, for example, has increased by 300 times for the last ten years. Russia suffers the most from the illegal distribution of heroin, coming from Afghanistan. The United States suffer the most from cocaine addiction with the drugs coming from Mexico. According to the approximate figures, announced by Interpol, there are about 200 million drug addicts in the world.

The development of drug addiction continues due to easy access to the drugs. Within the anti-drug campaign, an open sale of certain kinds of glues and acetone is prohibited, but one can easily buy these products at unauthorized markets. Moreover, drugs can be found through internet. Drug dealers lure potential buyers promising extraordinary abilities like seeing spirits or reading minds. Drugs are now being sold even at schools, including the elite ones.

The state program on fight against pharmacy drug addicts does not help much as well. The black list of medicine being sold only under prescription already includes eight thousand products and expands with each year. However, as soon as the state prohibits yet another medicine, the drug addicts find a new one to get high. Besides, the prohibited for open sale drugs can still be found in internet-pharmacies, though their quality is doubtful.

Russia once experienced a bad period of pharmacy drug addiction. In 2008, within the state anti-drug program the authorities prohibited the open sale of drugs for cardiac diseases. However, doctors could not supply all patients with prescriptions and the ban was urgently lifted. It turned out that the number of the victims was hundreds of times higher than the number of addicts.

Innocent victims

While the state is fighting drug addiction, the incurable patients suffer. Patients of palliative and hospice care need adequate pain relief, but Ukrainian medicine cannot provide all patients with proper care. According to the data of Human Rights Watch, 428 thousand Ukrainians require palliative care to ease pain. In 95% of cases these are patients with cancer.

However, doctors and patients complain that strong drug painkillers, like morphine, are not always available. A patient with cancer needs a morphine injection every four hours. Under hospital care, the treatment is not a problem, but at home, it is. Not all pharmacies have a license for selling morphine, especially in rural areas. Hence, village residents have to travel far to get the relief for their dears. Some relatives of the incurable patients admit they have to buy the drug on the black market, encouraging the dealers to continue their illegal activity.

According to the former health minister of Ukraine Vasyl Kniazevich, the palliative care must undergo some serious changes in order to solve the problem of the incurable patients. In particular, the authorities should approve the introduction of morphine in tablets, which is not yet produced in Ukraine, and to allow the patients to buy pain reliefs for a longer term, not once in three days as it is now. According to Volodymyr Tymoshenko, such innovations can be introduced only if the Cabinet issues a relevant decree. Otherwise, the patients will continue to suffer.  

The history proves that total elimination of drug addiction is impossible. However, it is possible to reach some positive results, including the reduction of the number of drug addicts. The successful experience has two models. The first one is drastic - introduction of death penalty for illegal drug dealing. The second one is focused on preventive measures, which do not kill physically, but make one's life more difficult. For example, a person using tobacco, alcohol and/or drugs can be banned from holding state positions, being a doctor or a teacher. In Ukraine, however, imbalanced measures just ruin the whole construction, because of which people suffer. We do hope the Ukrainian authorities will consider unsuccessful experience of the fight against drug addiction and will invent a better concept.

Alina Yeremeyeva


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