Copyrighted material


by Kester Kenn Klomegah

Russia: 60,000 Suicides a Year

(IPS) -- Russia is losing one in ten people in its active population to drugs, a leading medical researcher told IPS.

"Now it's for the authorities to wake up and take some measures," said Dr David Nas Khletashvilli from the prestigious Russian Medical Academy.

"In the rural regions it could be worse as many who died as a result of abuse were not documented. The local authorities don't really want to bring that to the public limelight and to discredit their administrative records."

Almost 100,000 people die annually in Russia directly from drug overdoses and abuse, the Federal Drug Control Service (FDCS) has said. "Some 90,000 people annually die of poisoning with psychoactive substances in Russia," it added.

"The drug trafficking situation remains acute. Despite a 3.56 percent decline compared to 2005 in the number of persons involved in non-medical use of drugs, it remains high at 5.78 million people," the FDCS says. Russia has a population of 104 million.

Dr Raphael Quartey, medical sociologist at the Krasnodar State Medical Academy in southern Russia told IPS in an e-mailed comment that "drug abuse has been a growing problem particularly for Russia for many years now, and with more sophisticated drugs finding their way into nightclubs and other hangouts it is relatively easier for both teenagers and adults to be lured into substance abuse."

Medical research has focused on drugs that have helped improve performance in certain tasks, Dr Quartey said.

"It's bad to get involved with pharmacological substances or chemically manufactured products that were not well tested. Even if they are tested naturally it's not good to use them. There are always negative effects associated with them," Quartey said.

It is now becoming fashionable to get high.

"This drug and substance abuse is aggravated specifically by the growing culture among youth, and forms of consumption by some segments of the population who use them predominantly as beverages," Pavel Shapkin, chairman of the National Drug and Alcohol Association told IPS.

"Sometimes people simply die due to the fake product manufactured by industrialists interested in making quick profits," he said. "Quality controllers also don't really care, after accepting bribes."

The dangerous substances include alcohol, an ancient scourge in Russia, he said. "Abuse of alcohol is one of the major factors in early mortality." It is also behind crimes and enormous loss of productive hours, he said.

"People have failed to accept this serious fact or just overlooked it," Shapkin said. "Russian men are dying in their prime age. There is high prevalence of diseases physically and in the nervous system directly connected with excessive consumption of alcohol and drug abuse."

Studies at his institution show that alcohol and drug are the primary reason for accidents, injuries, poisonings, murders and suicides. More women and young people are also affected now, he said. "A high level of morbidity can be blamed on alcoholism," Shapkin said.

"The liberalization process in Russia has been associated with relaxation of borders, increased migration, and growth in the supply of and demand for illicit drugs," says a report produced for the British embassy in Moscow. "The deaths resulting from this activity have increased fivefold between 1999 and 2000 alone, and a number of studies have also documented high prevalence and explosive outbreak of abuse in the country."

The report titled Drug and Alcohol Dependence strongly recommends development of mechanisms for easy access to treatment in order to reduce the rising toll.

The report also calls for efforts to change negative attitudes towards substance and drug abusers and creation of policies at the federal level to encourage access to health services.

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor   March 15, 2007   (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.