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Surprising Science

Drug Treatment, Russian-Style

A coercive approach to drug treatment has gained wide support in Russia that once involved strapping patients to beds while they undergo the harsh agonies of withdrawal.  

What’s the Latest Development?


A harsh drug treatment procedure that has gained support in Russia skirts the law with its coercive practices. In one case, an operative of the private drug treatment group City Without Drugs was sentenced to three years in prison after abducting drug addicts, upon their parents’ request, and taking them to a treatment center. The Afghan heroin trade has caused an epidemic of addiction across Russia and government policy is often ineffective. Methadone, for example, which is used in the west to wean users off their addiction, is illegal across Russia. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Private treatment groups like City Without Drugs have been criticized by government officials, human rights groups and physicians alike. Patients are taken off drugs cold turkey, a process City Without Drugs says can take a year to complete and which many medical professionals say will ultimately be unsuccessful. Drug addiction is often more complex than someone ingesting a harmful substance but without adequate government programs, families who are desperate to help their loved ones may feel pressured to patronize the harsh treatment programs. 


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