The voice of young people, who are concerned about the lack of evidence-based information about drugs in Russia

7 April 2017

Hi, my name is Artem, I am a ninth grade student from Moscow and I would like to tell you about some drug related problems in my country.

To start things off, I want to talk about drug education in schools. We do not get proper information about drug use in our schools. All we have are posters aimed to make you being afraid of drugs and which nobody really takes seriously. Besides, these official posters have false information in them. For instance, they say that any drug will cause addiction followed by an awful withdrawal – even if you use it once. However, they don't advise any methods of drug treatment or harm reduction. Some teenagers in Moscow stop relying on adults and just find the information they need themselves. The Wikipedia has some information about effects, doses, and addictiveness of drugs, and the good news is that it is not banned yet even in Russia.  

Even though some youth do not trust adults, many of them do. Once in our biology class a teacher told us that any addition, and especially a drug addiction, could be treated with severe pain: every time a person has a desire for a dose, you can beat him up, and, overtime, the person will associate drugs with pain.

Some young people understand that this is simply not true, but many believe that this is a clear instruction on what to do if their friend has a drug problem.

Young people in Moscow, including myself, don’t know whom to talk to, if they, or their friend have a drug problem. And even if they did, a lot of them wouldn’t share this with anyone. We do not trust doctors, and, obviously, police.

Police come to our school twice every year. What they say is that “spice is mostly ‘dirty park grass’ and that taking drugs is a criminal offence.

All people in our school take it as a funny joke, both students and teachers, but not principals. Their goal is to keep the level of the school reputation, so they put all their efforts in making things look good. If there are rumors that someone is using drugs, the school administration will make him leave, in order to keep the school’s reputation uncompromised. The school reputation is above everything else.

Based on some rumors that I was involved in a social media group, where some people were suspected on taking drugs, my homeroom teacher told me that it is for my own good to break all the relationships with “these people”. As a matter of fact, “these people” were my own classmate.  So I had to leave the group, but others were expelled.

We worry about our privacy more than about our health. We do not want our small world to be destroyed. My friend died of an overdose caused by a combination of heroin and a synthetic drug NBOMe. People at that party called a doctor, but they were too scared to say that they used drugs.

And here is the last thing I want to say: we do not want to be judged by anyone, not even by people we trust, but we feel responsible for each other. We want to have tools of assessing the severity of drug problems and protecting our friends.