"Russia has a high prevalence of drug use and has already for some years suffered from a widespread injection drug use epidemic with an estimated over 2% of the population being people who inject drugs (PWID). In 2020, a total of 18,013 people overdosed on illicit drugs and 7,366 died as a consequence, which is a 16% increase compared to 2019 (Sárosi, 25 February, 2022).

"Despite the problems escalation – such as PWID functioning as a major driver of Russia's HIV epidemic () – the official strategy by authorities has mainly focused on drug traffickers and drug-related crime. During the past 30 years, the Russian Federation has introduced tough measures to combat the spread and use of illicit drugs. Over one fourth of the imprisoned population are estimated to have been punished for drug-related crimes.

"The country is on a path of “treating users like criminals instead of people in need of treatment” (). A priority by authorities to set up “draconian laws” has been portrayed from the drug users’ perspective, for example in a 2019 story in Deutsche Welle. Examples include getting four years in prison for being caught with just a small amount of drugs (). The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) describes a misuse of power in a highly punitive and stigmatising environment: “law enforcement agencies have a virtual carte blanche to discriminate against people who use drugs” ().

"A study from 2020 that scrutinises extrajudicial and illegal police drug controlling practices found “significant discontinuities in the weight distribution of seized heroin near minimum threshold amounts” (, p. 378). Ruling out alternative explanations of the discontinuity, the author Alex Knorre concludes that the most likely source of the revealed discontinuities is police manipulations with seized heroin ()."


Hellman M. Drug control and human rights in the Russian Federation. Nordisk Alkohol Nark. 2022 Aug;39(4):343-346. doi: 10.1177/14550725221108789. Epub 2022 Aug 12. PMID: 36003121; PMCID: PMC9379298.