Medvedev suggests drug treatment instead of jail term for junkies

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has given the government two months to consider the possibility of replacing jail terms for drug abusers with drug treatment.

“I instruct the government and the presidential executive staff to review this proposal in a two-month term and submit the decisions to me,” the president said during a government meeting in the Siberian city of Irkutsk.

Russia’s anti-narcotics chief, Viktor Ivanov, initiated the idea of giving the choice to drug abusers involved in minor crimes as to whether got to jail or undergo rehabilitation.

Medvedev said the treatment should not be an alternative, but understood as a means of punishment.

“The question now is about which crimes should be included into this initiative,” Medvedev said.

Russian Ministry of Health’s chief alcohol and drug abuse specialist Yevgeny Bryun also proposed introducing compulsory drug tests to those applying for jobs.

“I recently came across an employment ad in the United States, which said there would be drug tests for job applicants. Every company there has the right for drugs tests. I believe we should have it as well,” Bryun said.

Around 30,000 Russians die from heroin abuse every year, and the country’s HIV rate is skyrocketing.

Russia has borne the brunt of the ill-effects of the Afghan drug trade, and officials in Moscow have in the past accused coalition forces in Afghanistan of not doing enough to curb drug production there, which helped to sustain the estimated 2.5 million drug users in Russia.

“In the past five years people have begun taking drugs at the age of 11-12 years. This is a catastrophic level,” Medvedev said.

He also gave his backing to legislation now being drafted by the country’s Health Ministry that would see schoolchildren and students tested for drugs.

Last year, Russian and U.S. agents destroyed several drug laboratories in eastern Afghanistan. One ton of opium and heroin was seized during the raids.

IRKUTSK, April 18 (RIA Novosti)

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