When people think of substance abuse in Russia, they often think of alcohol abuse because it’s rampant there. For example, here’s a headline atop a 2009 article from a Russian news agency: Russia's Medvedev calls for program to fight alcohol abuse. (Medvedev was president in 2009, prior to Putin.)
Joan found a news item on another substance abuse problem in Russia: the synthetic drug spice, which is wreaking havoc among attract teenagers and young adults. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that “’Spice’ refers to a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as ‘safe,’ legal alternatives to that drug. Sold under many names, including K2, fake weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks, and others — and labeled ‘not for human consumption’ — these products contain dried, shredded plant material and chemical additives that are responsible for their psychoactive (mind-altering) effects.”
The article from the Russian news service says spice also mimics the effects of cocaine and methamphetamine. Drug pushers in Russia have been selling bags of the substance for under $15, often in schools and in shops with barred windows.
Astonishingly, a group of Russian vigilantes has been seeking out these pushers in Moscow and other cities to try and stop the scourge. According to the news service, the vigilantes’ frightening actions against the pushers are (unofficially) condoned by the government, although the head of the country’s anti-drug agency denies this. Still, citizens are questioning Putin’s “perceived tolerance for extralegal actions against forces considered harmful to the regime or to public order.”
The radicals are members of an anti-drug group associated with a group called Young Russia that is pro-Kremlin. The hammer-wielding subset calls itself the Young Anti-Drugs Special Forces. They have attacked drug pushers’ cars and thrown the people to the ground and tossed red paint on them.
The headline of the article Joan pointed me to says it all: The spice must not flow: Pro-Kremlin youth violently hunt down ‘spice’ pushers in Russia. Unfortunately, if Russia bans one of the ingredients, the manufacturers just substitute another or change the mix somewhat. So the attackers find the pushers, attack them, and then film and publish the attack online to try and deter others. Scary all around.
Another YouTube video brought home yet another drug problem in Russia. Krokodil (for Crocodile), is a synthetic drug that owes its existence to the war in Afghanistan. A short introduction in the video explains that when heroin started being exported to Russia from Afghanistan, many Russians became addicted. They’ve since turned to the cheaper Krokodil, which “makes their skin turn scaly and rot off their bodies.” (Search for photos on the Internet; they’re all over.)
One TV host toured an area where the drug addicts live and shoot up. Seeing what goes on is truly devastating. A British newspaper said the drug—desomorphine—which can be made from “codeine-based headache pills” and other ingredients available in many people’s homes, is more powerful than heroin.
The writer noted that it’s a huge epidemic, especially in isolated areas of Russia. He quoted a doctor who said that the withdrawal is much worse than with heroin—sometimes the physical pain can last a month instead of five or ten days, and people have to be given strong tranquilizers so that they don’t pass out from the pain. Russia has plans to make codeine-based pills available only by prescription, but that has not happened yet. (And wait until they see how even that doesn’t always help, as evidenced in our country.)
The horror goes on and on in this article. I’ve occasionally recommended an article before, but this one is really a must.
Photos: (Above) Soviet government anti-drinking poster, circa 1950s
(Below) The Kremlin in Moscow