Official records state that there are about 350,000 drug addicts in Russia, 70% of them younger than 30. Every year there are 70,000 drug-related deaths, 10,000 from overdoses. These figures have been exponentially growing in the past 10 years.
80% of the drugs in Russia come directly from Tadjikistan, a big opium producer who has a monopoly over transport of drugs coming from Afghanistan. There are no customs check-points entering Russia from Tadjikistan. The train that connects the two countries, from Dushanbe to Moscow, is known as the “Train of Death”.
In a country like Russia, the course of action is often left to personal initiatives: not infrequently citizens take the law into their own hands, organising punitive expeditions against drug dealers, often burning down their houses.
Nine years ago, in Ekaterinburg, Evgeniy Roizman founded a detox and rehabilitation centre for drug addicts called City Without Drugs. It accepts young people, regardless of their economic situation, under a model of free donation: those who can afford it pay for themselves and also for those who don’t have the money.
Once in the centre the drug addicts are put through a severe detox regime: they are not allowed medicine and are sustained on a water and bread diet for two months while being handcuffed to the dormitory beds. They then follow a rehabilitation program, helping out within the centre. Many of them, once cured, carry on working for the centre as volunteers.
In its nine years, over 4,500 people have passed through City Without Drugs: a great many of these are teenagers and HIV affected (40%). Following the example of Ekaterinburg, other centres have begun to open in Irkutsk, Miass, Mosca and Nijzniy Tagil.