Drug misuse has a long and complex history in Russia, dating back to the Soviet era. During that time, the government heavily restricted access to drugs and punished possession and use severely. Possession of even small amounts of drugs could result in long prison sentences. However, despite these strict laws, drug use persisted and even increased in some instances. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), drug use in the Soviet Union was relatively low in the 1970s and 1980s, but began to rise in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought significant changes to Russia, including economic turmoil and a breakdown of law enforcement. These factors, along with the opening of borders and the emergence of organized crime, led to a significant increase in drug trafficking and abuse. According to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the number of drug-related arrests in Russia increased by more than 500% between 1991 and 1998.
One of the most significant changes during this period was the increase in heroin use. According to the WHO, the number of people who reported using heroin in Russia increased from around 100,000 in 1990 to over 1 million in 2000. This was due in part to the fact that Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer of opium, became more accessible to traffickers following the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
In recent years, the Russian government has implemented stricter measures to combat drug misuse, including harsher penalties for possession and trafficking, as well as increased funding for drug treatment and education programs. In 2016, Russia’s Federal Narcotics Control Service reported that it had seized more than 20 tons of drugs in the first half of the year, a 70% increase from the previous year.
Despite these efforts, the problem of drug misuse in Russia remains significant. According to the UNODC, Russia has one of the highest rates of opioid use in the world, with an estimated 2.5 million people using opioids in 2016. Heroin is the most commonly used opioid in Russia, and is responsible for a large proportion of overdose deaths in the country.
In conclusion, drug misuse has a long history in Russia, dating back to the Soviet era. Despite government efforts to combat the problem, drug trafficking and abuse continue to be significant issues in the country, particularly with regards to heroin and opioid use.
- World Health Organization. (2010). The illicit drug situation in the European Region. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241599948
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2018). World drug report 2018. Retrieved from https://www.unodc.org/wdr2018/prelaunch/WDR18_Booklet_1_EXSUM.pdf
- The Independent. (2016). Russia seizes 20 tonnes of drugs in first half of 2016, a 70% increase on 2015. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-seizes-20-tonnes-of-drugs-in-first-half-of-2016-a70-increase-on-2015-a7047296.html
- The Moscow Times. (2019). Russia’s Drug Epidemic: The Statistics Behind the Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/06/24/russias-drug-epidemic-the-statistics-behind-the-crisis-a65505
- CNN. (2018). Inside Russia’s deadly heroin epidemic. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/05/europe/russia-heroin-epidemic-intl/index.html