Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice

Drug scene in Russia 2010. Results of the Internet survey on the heroin situation in Russia in 2010.

Drug scene in Russia 2010. Results of the Internet survey on the heroin situation in Russia in 2010.

The survey was done in early 2011. The questionnaire was distributed via harm reduction list serve and one website for drug users. 29 respondents from 22 cities including harm reduction workers and drug users took part in a survey.





Which drug prevailed on the drug scene of your city in 2010 (multiple choice):

Heroin – 55%

Amphetamines – 14%

Pharmacy drugs (codeine based preparations, tropicamid, etc) – 41%

Other – 24% (methedrone, marijuana)


Did availability of heroin in your city change in 2010?

Heroin became less available – 69%

Heroin became more available – 14%

Availability of heroin didn’t change – 17%


What is the average price of heroin in 2010 (per gram) – 23 responses

Average – 1341 rub (45$)


Indicate quality of heroin if it was available (22 responses)

For a person with an average dosage one gram is enough for one shot – 32%

For a person with an average dosage one gram is enough for one day – 45%

For a person with an average dosage one gram is enough for more than a day – 9%

Other – 14%


In an open question ‘what major changes of the drug scene could be observed in 2010?” almost all respondents noted drastically decreased availability, quality and increased price of heroin and as a major trend – transition from heroin use to use of more available, cheap but also more dangerous in terms of health preparations on the base of codeine pharmacy drugs (called desomorphine). Also use of tropicamid (eye medication) in combination with desomorphine, heroin and sometimes by its own was noted by several participants.

Transition from heroin to desomorphine was connected with low availability of heroin, lower cost of desomorphine (10 times cheaper than heroin) and bad quality of heroin. In some cities (eg Barnaul) in 30,2% of the cases, desomorphine is sold to drug users already prepared, preloaded into syringes, which increases risk of HIV transmission. In other cities desomorphine is prepared by users themselves in their homes.

Another factor increasing risks related to HIV transmission indicated in one city was that when desomorphine is injected, blood is pushed to and from the syringe into the vein for several times which may increase risk of HIV transmission if the syringe is shared.

Unlike heroin, which is used 3-4 times a day, desomorphine is shorter action and is used 7-10 times a day.

A respondent from Yekaterinburg noted that about 80% of IDUs in their city have switched from heroin to desomorphine use and 50% of these people prepare it themselves, however, percentage of drug sold in solution increases. Participants from Yekaterinburg and Ufa noted increased mortality among idus in the last year due to toxicity and vein damage (trombophlebitis) of desomorphine.

Participants from Zlatoust noted that 2010 was characterized by switching to desomorphine use from the poppy seeds which were prevalent year before, now over 60% of harm reduction project use desomorphine.

Participant from Rostov noted that use of desomorphine caused major vein problems and loss of limbs in many clients of their harm reduction project in one year.

A participant from Moscow noted that one of the major features on the drug scene in 2010 was prohibition on sell of butorphanol in pharmacies, butorphanol was the main drug of choice of clients of a harm reduction project in Moscow in 2010, but in the end of year majority have switched to nalbufin (another agonist-antagonist sold in pharmacy).

Participant from Moscow and Naberezhnye Chelny, Tver and Togliatti noted increase in availability of methedrone and so called ‘bath salts’ – amphetamines legally sold.

Participants from several cities noted increased availability of designer drugs with rapidly changing formulas (legal formulas).

A participant from Tver noted that methadone became more available, but still not used very widely.

The survey was performed by Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice, Moscow, Russia.

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