Censorship on Methadone in Russia: The Right to Information

Once again, stringent drug law and anti-drug campaign action has resulted in a restriction of access to treatment.  A government anti-drugs agency in Russia has ordered that the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, a public health organization which deals with discussion of the drug methadone as a treatment for addiction, be shut down.  The motion was put into action because the organization was said to “[place] materials that propagandize (advertise) the use of drugs, information about distribution, purchasing of drugs and inciting the use of drugs.” 



As we have discussed, methadone can be very successful in treating addiction, and, due to its tablet form, can prevent the spread of HIV through needle use.  Currently, there are nearly 1 million people in Russia living with HIV, many of which contracted the disease through unsanitary needle use.  Methadone, however, is illegal, and with the increasing control of the government on the information provided to the citizens, soon addicts will be unable to gain information on treatments alternative to “narcology” – an abstinence-based system, which has been shown to be largely ineffective, and even harmful. 

            While censorship has been an ongoing problem in Russia, it becomes even more concerning when it impedes upon the rights of citizens to access medicine and information on healthcare.  The right to information seems to be key here, as without knowing their options, heroin addicts are left stigmatized and forced to quit their habit “cold-turkey” (most, obviously, will not). 

            This example, along with the problem of access to morphine, demonstrates how tightly the war on drugs is wound with human rights and the global access to medicine.   We are, once again left asking the questions: do drug addicts have the same rights to healthcare and information as others?  Does the government have a right to withhold information, in fears that the information may lead to a rise in drug use, as opposed to a decrease? 

  1. Evgeny said:

    How do you address the concern that methadone treatment:
    1) substitutes one drug for another;
    2) leaves an addict without a chance to live a normal life without drugs
    3) results in huge profits by pharmaceutical companies, which seem to be major benefitiaries of methadone treatment

  2. I have to ask the same things as above. As for me-I have been on Oxycontin, and then methadone. Personally, there were still “things” about me that remained while on Oxy. Methadone took all of that and everything in between. I blame no one but myself, but I also don’t think that makes what they are doing at these methadone clinics right. Thank goodness I finally saw through the “false advertising” and began putting pieces of my life back together. The highest dose of methadone I was on was 160mgs/day. I am now at 22.5mgs/day and the changes are unbelievable. I have been decreasing by 5mgs every two weeks for quite some time. Once I am clean, I will post before and after pictures-pictures when I was on Oxy vs. pictures when on methadone vs. pics while on “life”. The differences will be staggering, I can assure you.

  3. aakselrod said:

    As I am not a heavy opiate user, nor have I ever needed to detox, I obviously cannot with conviction advocate for or against the use of methadone in treating opiate dependency. Clearly, methadone is not some kind of magic pill, without side effects or risks. It does, however, decrease the rate of HIV transmission in drug users, as needles are not necessary to adminster the drug. I find it interesting that both of the above commentators missed the glaring problem I presented in this blog post – Russian government agencies are literally prohibiting people from getting access to information which may potentially be beneficial to their health. Like I said, I cannot and will not advocate for the use of methadone, as I believe its success or failure to be highly particular to the individual. I will, however, enthusiastically advocate for the right of people to information. Censorship has been an ongoing problem in Russia, that has currently become very prevalent – just a couple of months ago, for example, the Russian government has passed a law which forbids all public mention of homosexuality (that includes bans on movies such as Birdcage, books which mention homosexuality, support groups, etc). Such is also the case for illicit substances – not only is there a ban on the drug themselves, but also all websites mentioning treatment for drug addiction. This, I think, is the bigger issue here. That political policy can impede the right of people to healthcare information.

  4. aakselrod said:

    To ismelltherain – I wish you the best

  5. Well, I see your point-censorship in Russia has been a problem (for Russians) for as long as I can remember. I can certainly sympathize with them on that issue. I was speaking only about the methadone part of your post.

    I’ll be honest (about methadone), it really wasn’t until I started writing about it that I noticed just how many negative changes the stuff had wrought in my life. Surprisingly, most of it was physical changes.

    Thanks for your best wishes. It’s been quite a journey, and I can say that at this moment, I feel like….well, I really can’t find a word that describes how I feel-I guess maybe a “grown baby”. I just feel as if I’m experiencing life for the very first time. Best wishes to you too brother!

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