By: Lauren Saccone
Russia suffers from a lot of social and political turmoil. International relations with other countries are often strained at best (case in point, the country's involvement with the tragedy of Malaysia Airline Flight 17's crash in Ukraine). But despite this tension and the resulting issues, the biggest dangers facing Russia may come from within.
Case in point: Russia is struggling with an overwhelming heroin epidemic. The drug has overtaken the nation with astonishing speed, and the death toll is dramatically rising. According to a report from Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service, drug overdose deaths in the country have tripled since 2012. That adds up to over 100,000 people die annually as a result of the drug.
“28.7 people out of 100,000 among [the] urban population have died from overdose and drug related diseases in 2013,” Deputy Head of the Federal Drug Control Service Olga Mishina recently said in an interview with the Itar-Tass news agency. “That’s 2.7 times higher than a year before.”
And that number doesn’t include those still struggling with addiction. More than 8 million people in Russia are addicted to heroin; most of those struggling with the drug are in their teens and twenties.
“Out of 108,700 people convicted for drug-related offenses in 2013, 46 percent were young people aged between 18 and 29, with another 2,100 being minors,” Mishina said in a statement. Experts estimate that the number of illegal drug users in the country has grown by three and a half million people in just five years; most of those started experimenting when they were in their early teens and twenties. This youthful demographic might be part of the reason for the rise in drug-related crimes throughout the country. Roughly 250,000 drug-related crimes are investigated throughout Russia every single year, but that number doesn’t begin to indicate just how large the drug culture is. Experts believe that there are one billion drug sales per year in Russia.
Unsurprisingly, the illegal drug industry in Russia is booming. In the past year alone over an estimated 30 tons of pure heroin have been smuggled into the country; that adds up to over 100 million doses being sold throughout Russia.
With such an enormous addiction problem, you might expect Russia to have numerous services available to those struggling with drug abuse. Instead, officials have bemoaned the lack of options for those trying to overcome addiction. The state simply does not offer resources for the enormous number of drug addicts throughout the country; most of those struggling do not have access to rehabilitation centers. Even outpatient clinics or traditional treatment centers are in short supply. As a result, many of those who attempt to kick the habit find themselves without any sort of support, and backsliding into drug addiction.
Despite these frankly disturbing numbers, Russia is claiming that the war on drugs has taken some serious steps forward. The number of those addicted seems to have plateaued, and those dying from drug overdoses have not exceeded 100,000 a year. More and more people are attempting to receive treatment for their addiction (even if the resources needed are in short supply). But with such a powerful and lucrative illegal drug industry, and millions upon millions of young people succumbing to the drug, it looks like Russia’s battle with heroin is far from over.
[Pic via Flickr - Andres Rodriguez]