Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov’s answer to a journalist’s question on drug harm reduction programmes, Moscow, August 6, 2018
Question: Some media, including Russian outlets, are reporting on the “expert recommendations” following the International AIDS Conference AIDS2018 that took place on July 23-27, 2018 in Amsterdam. In particular, Russia is again being urged to adopt so-called harm reduction programmes, including the distribution of syringes, needle exchange, and the distribution of methadone to those using intravenous drugs.
Oleg Syromolotov: I would like to say the following:
Under to the Russian strategy for national anti-drug policy until 2020, it is unacceptable to use drug replacement therapy on addicts of narcotic and psychotropic drugs, as is the legalisation of drugs for non-medicinal use.
The Federal Law on Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances prohibits the treatment of drug addiction with narcotic substances (Paragraph 6, Article 31), while methadone (phenadone) is on List P of narcotic drugs whose circulation in the Russian Federation is prohibited.
Harm reduction programmes, including needle exchange programmes, which as a rule precede the introduction of replacement (opiate) therapy, amount to the indirect legalisation of narcotics through official medical institutions.
We see the following risks in replacement therapy:
- supporting and increasing drug use among people, the destabilisation of the drug situation in the Russian Federation;
- increase in drug-related deaths;
- wider legal distribution of drugs with the predictable result that methadone and buprenorphine users and medical staff will get involved in the illegal circulation of said drugs;
- corruption risks in the healthcare system and law enforcement agencies;
- encouraging tolerance for drug use among the nation;
- destruction of the country’s demographic, intellectual and creative potential.
According to experts, methadone therapy does not help cure drug addiction, but rather methadone and buprenorphine lead to drug addiction or exacerbate it.
In terms of narcotic effect, these synthetic drugs are stronger than morphine and heroine and last three times as long.
Giving drug addicts such narcotic rations in fact slows down their search for effective treatment options, because it is much easier to give addicts drugs than help them adapt to a life without drugs.
Important are the financial interests of the manufacturers of this expensive drug; they want to continue the programme and, therefore, the production of methadone. They gamble with the lives of sick people.
An effective solution to the treatment of drug addicts involves actively searching for and introducing new medicines and means of making the addicts stop taking drugs, adaptation to life without drugs, while not replacing one drug with another.
The Russian Federation currently has effective multi-tier treatment and rehabilitation measures to treat drug addiction, with the end result of total abstinence. It includes treatment, medical and social rehabilitation and resocialisation.
These methods have been presented by Russian experts repeatedly at relevant international platforms, including the annual sessions of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
We hope that this information will prevent foreign experts from prescribing questionable drugs and encourage them to join their Russian colleagues in the search for effective ways to overcome drug addiction and related diseases.