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?