Advocacy web site blocked by Russian Government

Russia has reaffirmed its continued support for an unscientific drug policy by blocking the Andrey Rylkov foundation website. The foundation advocates a more humane and scientific approach to helping drug users such as the use of methadone substitution therapy. The Russian government with its known policy of not embracing a humane drug policy have therefore blocked the Andrey Rylkov foundations web site.

The web site has been a big critic on Russia’s current policy which has an absolute lack of harm reduction. Talking Drugs has in the past covered the current drug policy employed by Russia and the harm it is doing in regards to fuelling the HIV epidemic in Russia. 

The order to block the web site went into effect on February the 3rd 2012. The order claims that the web site is being blocked because of the “placement of materials that propagandize the use of drugs, information about distribution, purchasing of drugs and inciting the use of drugs.”

Rick Lines from Harm Reduction International said that “Russia has a duty to respect, protect and promote access to health care, including for effective drug treatment and HIV prevention. Instead, they are slamming the door on basic health information and sending the message to millions of citizens that their lives are not worth saving.”

This hasn’t been the first time the Russian government has gone after web sites advocating a better drug policy. In 2006 the Russian government forced a web site run by Vladimir Mendelevich which contained information about methadone substitution therapy to close.

Russia has one of the largest number of injecting drug users in the world and due to the lack of harm reduction options it also means that a lot of needle sharing occurs. This has meant that HIV rates in Russia have become one of the highest in the world with IDU’s feeling the effects in particular. In some regions of Russia as much as 80% of those with HIV contracted it through contaminated injection equipment.

Currently the Russian government advocates “narcology” which basically consists of “heavily medicalized detoxification” which may be followed “ with a course of antipsychotic medication or barbiturates”.  ‘Drug Rehabilitation Centers' often involve facilities where those being ‘treated’ are put in jail like conditions with bars and shackles.  In 2006 over 2 dozen women died in a fire at a ‘Drug Rehabilitation Center’ because they were trapped behind bars.

The relapse rates perhaps unsurprisingly are very high with some authors saying that 90% of those undergoing treatment in these centers will relapse within the first year. This combined with the stigmatization of being put on a ‘drug-use register’ which denies the drug user of many rights means that many who would seek help with their drug use don’t.

Methadone substitution therapy has been used successfully in countless countries all around the world. The Russian government so far however has ignored that opting to put its head in the ground and to block anything which disagrees with their position. Blocking the Andrey Rylkov foundation is a continuation of that policy.

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