Drug addicts should not be treated like animals - social worker

Russian society needs more tolerance and social acceptance, says Tatyana Zadirako, the head of United Way of Russia charity, adding that the presidential drug initiative will not work without the involvement of the entire population.

­Dealing with drug problems is the responsibility of not just the drug users themselves, she says, but also of parents, relatives, social workers and teachers. 

“We have only crime and punishment and nothing in between,” Zadirako said. “But there should be support from the government and from the people – the entire society needs to be involved.”

Under current legislation, the use of drugs, unlike storing and selling them, is not considered a crime.

But the use of drugs may soon be punishable by law and become a criminal offense. President Dmitry Medvedev has instructed the government and its administration to prepare their proposals on the issue. 

But Zadirako thinks the initiative will not be successful until certain conditions are met. 

“There should be the support of relatives, of parents, of people who surround the addicted,” she said. “We need social rehabilitation centers. And then the privacy. The key point of our society is how to make the treatment private.”

As a preventive measure, Russian children could face drug tests at school. Russia has a severe problem with the number of addicts, and most start their habit early.

Zadirako believes the problem will not be solved until society changes its attitude toward the addicts. 

“I happened to visit a prison where about 30 drug addicts were kept. Those people were treated like animals, there was a big wall between them and other convicts,” said Zadirako. “We need more tolerance, more social acceptance, more social and human support.”