Drug addiction control in the USSR


Drug addiction is not a serious social and health problem in the USSR. This is due to general social and economic conditions as well as to the specific steps taken by the Soviet Government.


Author: E.A. BABAIAN
Pages: 1 to 2
Creation Date: 1971/01/01

Drug addiction control in the USSR *

E.A. BABAIAN Candidate of Medical Sciences Representative of the USSR in the United Nations Commission on Narcotic DrugsHead of Department, Ministry of Health of the USSR

Drug addiction is not a serious social and health problem in the USSR. This is due to general social and economic conditions as well as to the specific steps taken by the Soviet Government.

There is no unemployment in the Soviet Union; the people's standard of living is constantly rising, economically and culturally, and such social phenomena as prostitution, begging and vagrancy have been eliminated. All this militates against the spread of drug addiction.

Another major obstacle to the development of drug addiction in the USSR is State ownership of the enterprises producing narcotic drugs and of the pharmacies dispensing such drugs to the public.

The country's well-organized frontier and Customs services virtually preclude the smuggling in of drugs from abroad.

The production, storage and dispensing of narcotic drugs are under the constant supervision of State agencies.

The study of drug addiction in the USSR supports the view that addicts mainly consist of chronically sick or seriously disabled persons who have been regularly taking narcotic drugs such as morphine and codeine on account of their primary illness and have become addicted.

There are isolated cases of the use of narcotic substances obtained from some wild varieties of hemp. During the last decade, there was not a single case of heroin addiction in the USSR, and the production and use of this drug has long been prohibited in the country. There is practically no cocaine addiction. Soviet Law prescribes severe penalties for infringement of the regulations governing the storage, preparation, sale and use of narcotic substances. Instigation to the use of narcotic drugs is also a criminal offence, which is regarded as seriously aggravated in the case of instigation of minors.

*The original of this article is in Russian.

In accordance with the orders issued by the Ministry of Health of the USSR narcotic drugs have always been dispensed solely against doctors' prescriptions and for medical purpose only. Special records are kept of prescription forms and health establishments submit regular returns of the number of prescriptions issued for narcotic drugs. In accordance with the instructions in force, both these establishments and pharmacies store narcotic drugs under special conditions and carry out regular checks of their consumption.

The production of narcotic drugs is under the complete control of the State and is exclusively limited to requirements for medical and scientific purposes. The planting of the Indian, South Chuisk and South Manchurian varieties of hemp is strictly prohibited. Regular steps are being taken to reduce plantations of the opium poppy, with a view to the complete prohibition of its cultivation within the next few years.

Under orders issued by the Ministry of Health of the USSR, all medical establishments and pharmacies are required to report, in accordance with a prescribed procedure, any addicts visiting them for the first time to psychoneurological establishments (clinics) in the addicts' place of residence so that they can be registered and receive the necessary treatment. In this way, addicts can be detected promptly and treated in the early stages of addiction.

The pernicious practice of drug "allowances" for addicts has long been prohibited in the USSR.

The health authorities take special steps to organize a system of combined treatment for addicts, who receive highly skilled care in the appropriate health establishments. Addicts remain under the observation of the clinic for a lengthy period after their course of treatment has been completed.

As is well known, the Soviet Union is a party to most of the international conventions and protocols on the control of narcotic drugs. It is at present a party to the Single Convention of 1961, which replaced all previous international instruments on the subject, and is faithfully carrying out all the obligations which it assumed under this Convention.

During the last decade, many countries have seen a steady yearly increase in addiction to the so-called psychotropic substances, which are not under international control. Particularly dangerous substances in this category are the amphetamines, hallucinogens, LSD and other derivatives of lysergic acid. Addiction to hypnotic drugs has already been observed by doctors for some considerable time.

The complexity of the problem is due to the very large number of psychotropic and hypnotic drugs and to the fact that, because of their great therapeutic value, they are widely used in medical practice. The only exceptions are the hallucinogens, LSD and other derivatives of lysergic acid, which have little or no therapeutic value and present only a danger to human health.

On 19 December 1968, the United Nations General Assembly, concerned at the epidemic spread of the abuse of psychotropic substances-amphetamines, LSD and hypnotics-not yet under international control, adopted resolution 2433 (XXIII), in which it requested the Economic and Social Council to call upon the Commission on Narcotic Drugs "to give urgent attention to the problem of the abuse of the psychotropic substances not yet under international control, including the possibility of placing such substances under international control". The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs accordingly concentrated its attention on this problem at its twenty-third session (held in 1969).

As is known, in January 1970, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs held its First Special Session, the agenda for which contained only one item-the question of a new international protocol on psychotropic substances, such as the hallucinogens, which are not yet under international control. At this session of the Commission, the representatives of many countries expressed grave concern at the spread of addiction to these substances in their countries. For the last three or four years, the Swedish representative has spoken in strong terms of the grave situation presented by the amphetamines in his country. In countries such as the Federal Republic of Germany, the United States and France, increasing use is being made of LSD for narcotic purposes, mainly by young people. In the Soviet Union, not a single case has come to light of addiction to LSD and other derivatives of lysergic acid, amphetamines and other psychotropic substances.

As already stated above, this is mainly attributable to the favourable social conditions which have been established in our country.

The importance of legislation to prevent the abuse of dangerous substances and the development of addiction must not, however, be underestimated. In particular it should be pointed out that, in the Soviet Union, many hypnotic and psychotropic substances have long been available on a doctors' prescription only and are used solely for medical purposes.

For preventive reasons, the Ministry of Health of the USSR categorically prohibited the administration of LSD and other derivatives of lysergic acid to human beings as far back as 1967. Where their use for scientific research is concerned, a permit must be obtained in each individual case from the Ministry's Standing Committee on Drugs.

Many dangerous substances have been promptly placed under control by the Ministry, the use of especially dangerous substances, being prohibited. In 1968, in accordance with recommendations made by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the administration to human beings of acetorphine, etorphine and several other substances was prohibited.

The Expert Committee on Drug Dependence of the World Health Organization frequently discusses the problem of road accidents resulting from the consumption of hypnotic and psychotropic substances by drivers. Not a single case of this type has been recorded in the Soviet Union. For purposes of prevention, however, the Ministry has issued a special order, drawing attention to the need for great care in prescribing psychotropic and hypnotic substances for drivers and persons responsible for vehicles. If such persons are required to take hypnotic or psychotropic substances on account of illness, they are given leave with pay during their treatment on the basis of a medical certificate.

Although the Soviet Union has no problems of addiction to psychotropic substances or hallucinogens, nevertheless, in the interests of prevention and of the welfare of mankind, it has consistently adopted the position of principle that this group of dangerous substances should also be brought under the strictest international control.

In view of the constant expansion of international communications, it is becoming exceptionally important for national action to be coupled with the conclusion of an international agreement on the control of these substances and the Soviet Union will continue to take the line that these dangerous substances should be placed under stringent control.