Russia is punishing people for helping drug users
“Last year the number of ODs sharply went up, possibly because of fentanyl,” says Sarang. “We can’t say for sure, because there’s no official data, but the number of times someone’s called and told us they’ve had to use naloxone has doubled. So more people are overdosing.” … Yet rather than trying to make the situation safer for drug users, the authorities are making things wildly more dangerous.
…understand modern Russia’s hardline, old school approach to drugs… Anything over two grams of hash, six grams of cannabis and a half-gram of heroin counts as a “significant amount” that could see you spending seven to 15 years in jail. The drug war has also allowed the rampantly corrupt police to terrorise drug users. “We hear a lot about extortion, lawlessness, even torture of drug users – very, very scary stories,” says Sarang. “These people are living in a constant state of terror, afraid to go outside or to the pharmacy. We did a study last year and dozens of drug users told us how they were blackmailed by police. Although the consumption of drugs is decriminalised in theory, in practise the penalties are so severe a person could get ten years for a joint of marijuana. So naturally, they pay. It’s pure banditry.” … As a result of the fine, the ARF (Andrey Rylkov Foundation, Russia’s only NGO providing clean needles, HIV prevention and harm reduction advice] – a skeleton crew battling Russia’s alarming drug-related HIV epidemic – is now fighting for its life. Amnesty International described the fine as “suffocating”…. this [may] have a direct impact on Moscow’s most at-risk citizens.