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Health Ministry starts talking about easing punishment for drug addicts

Author : Olha Priadko

On March 12, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine published a draft order "On Amendments to the Order of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine of August 1, 2000 No. 188" about changing the amount of narcotic drugs, for the storage of which there is no criminal responsibility, but administrative. The order caused a strong public response and generated a lot of controversy and speculation.
21:47, 2 May 2018

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Prison is an ineffective cure for drug addiction

The Global Commission on Drug Trafficking is convinced that drug use became a problem only after it was transferred to the category of illegal things. So, according to studies of the early twentieth century, three quarters of people who used opiates and drugs on the basis of cocaine had stable and respectable job. When drug use was declared illegal, the number of thefts increased among the male population, as well as involvement in the sex industry among women. The reasons for this phenomenon are quite simple: illegal becomes difficult and expensive.

After a lapse of 100 years, the situation has not changed much. Criminal responsibility for drug use does not solve the problem, but only exacerbates it. "The data of our scientific research showed that about 50% of those who used drugs are in Ukrainian prisons, in the ordinary life there are 1-2% of such people, which means that the prison becomes a place where people who use drugs concentrate. This is the only result achieved through a tough anti-drug policy, "said Serhiy Dvoriak, chief investigator of the Ukrainian Institute for Public Health Policy.

It is noteworthy that being in prison, a person does not get rid of addiction. Going free, he again looks for a dose. But, according to Dvoriak, during the stay in places of detention, many addicts reduce the tolerability of drugs, in the end, they take the same dose that they took before the verdict, and die.

Narcologists believe that society needs to understand: addicted people are, first of all, sick people, and only then criminals. Naturally, you need to lead a reasonable lifestyle, but even if person try a narcotic or psychotropic substance one day, this does not mean that he immediately turns into a drug addict. "Among those who try narcotic substances, only 10-12% become dependent. If someone took a pill in a club or smoked weed - this is not a disaster," Serhiy Dvoriak explains.

The dependence develops as follows: about 23% of those who tried heroin later switched to regular use, for cocaine it is about 17%, and for cannabis - about 9%. By comparison, about 15% of those who drink alcohol become alcoholics, 32% of those who have tried tobacco are heavy smokers.

The National Police say that Ukraine has a strategy of state policy on drugs, which determines the need, among other things, to develop new standards for small, large and particularly large quantities of narcotic substances. "However, these standards should be based solely on scientifically sound conclusions about the problems of drug use and sale and should not contain the risks of negative impact on public safety and health," comments the head of the Department for Countering Drug Trafficking of the National Police Andriy Kikhtenko.

He explains that now to small narcotic parties refer those that do not exceed 10 certain daily doses, to large - from 100 to 1000, to especially large - more than 1000 doses. You can see how many grams of which substance is considered small, large or very large in size using this data.

"The changes proposed by the representatives of the Ministry of Health provide for an increase in existing norms from 2 to 200 times without providing the relevant materials with a justification," Kikhtenko said. He adds that the norms for storage of narcotic substances of vegetable origin, substances made in the form of extracts and others are determined according to existing methods, namely in terms of dry matter.

It is worth explaining that at the moment storage of absolutely any quantity of narcotic substances is illegal. The difference is that if the drug or psychotropic origin does not exceed the "small size", it is qualified as an administrative offense for which administrative liability is provided (Article 44 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of Ukraine). The amount of narcotic substance that exceeds the "small size" pulls criminal responsibility. It should also be noted that the distribution of narcotic substances, regardless of the number, is always a criminal offense (Article 307 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

In practice, the increase in storage standards will allow drug traffickers to illegally store larger quantities of prohibited substances without the risk of being brought to criminal responsibility (but with the risk of being brought to administrative duty). And these quantities, according to representatives of the National Police, will be much larger than it is necessary for a dependent person for personal use.

"Currently, the main method of exposing illegal activities of drug criminals, who sells drugs, is control of the offense in the form of operational procurement. That is traffickers do not accidentally fall in the hands of justice (in contrast with individuals who illegally store drugs without intent to sell)," - adds Andriy Kikhtenko.

Experience of other countries

The most difficult in the fight against the spread of drugs is precisely the division into consumers and sellers. This is an example of Belarus. There you can get behind bars for selling illegal substances from the age of 14. The term of imprisonment is up to 15 years. However, the desire to protect the society from the spread of drugs led to the fact that even those who had less than a gram of prohibited substance can get to the jail for 8-10 years. As human rights activists and relatives of prisoners say, those who are imprisoned for distributing drugs are treated worse than rapists and murderers. The so strict rules, which the people call the "antinarcotic" decree, came into force in 2014. For three years the number of crimes decreased almost 2 times (from almost 7,3 thousand in 2015 to about 4,7 thousand in 2017). Official statistics of the Belarusian Ministry of Health says that over this period the number of drug addicts has decreased from 17 thousand to 13.4 thousand. At the same time in the media you can meet a lot of publications that under the guise of the fight against drugs to jail get people who use them. Moreover, the country is faced with a problem - young working people are put to prison for minor crimes. Therefore, the possibility of mitigating punishment is now being discussed.

European countries leave the criminal responsibility for distribution, but the punishment for those who keep small parties is not so strict. The Western world still equates this category to dependent people and first of all offers help.

"Most of the developed democratic countries implement an inclusive approach to people with certain behavioral problems, that is, they are trying to include them in the society and not excluded from it. While the totalitarian regimes use an exclusive policy, trying to make sure that these people are in special reservations, prisons and so on, "says Serhiy Dvoriak.

For example, in Portugal, which for many years was considered one of the main channels for the import of drugs from South America and Africa to Europe, this problem in the early 2000s began to be addressed with prevention. The problem of using prohibited substances was highlighted in the framework of school programs. Police constantly patrolled areas in the vicinity of schools. The state has opened many specialized medical institutions. All this was financed at the state expense. At the same time, the drug trade was punished severely: for distribution, you could stay in jail for 10-12 years. The complex of these measures led to a reduction of more than 2 times of drug-related crimes. In addition, the mortality rate among dependent people decreased, and the number of users decreased.

Even earlier, the same principle was used by Switzerland. There, various programs were developed to help patients, including the provision of some dependent with heroin at public expense. This program has been in operation since 1994. The report of the Global Commission on Drug Trafficking states that 70% of the participants of this program committed an offense half a year before the participation. After these people were able to freely receive the necessary dose of the drug, their criminal activities decreased. "Participation in a criminal activity has significantly decreased, and in the most serious offenses, such as burglary, robbery, drug trafficking, it has decreased by 50-90%", the document says.

How does Ukraine cope with the problem of drug dependence?

In Ukraine, the problem has two opposite points of view. The fact is that the solution of the issue of socialization and the feasible rehabilitation of dependent people, as well as the fight against illicit drug trafficking, will not be easy. The process of settling the situation largely depends on the state of society and the readiness for change. We have no qualitative and most importantly effective medical care of the dependent, as well as effective prevention of the use of drugs. Addiction is still considered to be something shameful about us, which is not customary to talk about.

It's no secret that the big problems with dependence have well-off people, often representatives of the so-called "golden" youth. And the fact that drug trafficking is often supervised and covered by law enforcement officials themselves is not new. So the decriminalization of narcotic substances in Ukraine should be carried out very carefully. It cannot be reached without the development of a system of rehabilitation and socialization of sick people. The National Police note that scientifically substantiated conclusions are needed that would reflect the actual situation with drug use and take into account the impact of changing norms on safety in society.

It is not yet clear how Ukraine can find a compromise and decide how best to deal with the problem. In the course of preparation of this material, the project of changing norms of narcotic substances was removed from the official page of the Ministry of Health. But this does not cancel the fact that sooner or later Ukraine will have to solve a large-scale problem: according to various estimates in Ukraine there are up to 1.5 million addicts. It will become more difficult to dismiss this problem.

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