Academic journal article Geopolitics, History and International Relations

Drug Use in Bucharest, Romania

Academic journal article Geopolitics, History and International Relations

Drug Use in Bucharest, Romania

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. This is an overview of drug use in Bucharest that includes: drug use as a health issue, harm reduction and its principles, outreach, treatment demand and the relationship between the healthcare system main representatives - the doctors - and the active IDU patients.

Keywords: IDU - injectable drug user, NAA - National Anti-drug Agency, HR - Harm Reduction, UNAIDS - Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS

...Ifound myself in situation when I was not able to buy [a clean, sterile] insulin syringe in Bucharest, because those pharmacists think that they will do some good because they do not sell insulin syringes; in their stupid mind they think that the people will stop getting high, but in fact is a lot more worse, stupid!

(Romanian Injectable Drug User)

Drug Use in the General Population and among Y oung People

Since the early 90s, heroin was the illicit drug that caused the most problems associated with drug use. Most of the drug users abuse heroin by injection, which leads to a higher level of drug related problems. According to a rapid assessment conducted in 2002 among injecting drug users (IDUs) by NAA (National Anti-drug Agency), there were between 13,694 and 34,318 injecting heroin users estimated in Bucharest.

Together with UNAIDS, NAA made a quick estimate over a period of 6 months, which showed between 15,774 and 32,124 of IDUs in Bucharest, a figure similar to that recorded about a year ago.

Between 1999 and 2003 national studies have been conducted on a representative sample of school students aged between 15 and 16 years old in ESP AD project. In general, the data indicate a low prevalence of illicit drug use in Romania compared to EU member states, but there is a trend of increase use for most types of drugs. Both studies indicated cannabis as the most popular drug among students and lifelong prevalence increased from 1% in 1999 to 3.4% in 2003.

In 2003, Romanian Focal Point on Drugs applied to the World Bank Global Fund. These funds have facilitated in 2004 the implementation of the first general population survey on drugs. The study showed a low prevalence of illegal drug use throughout life. Only 1.7% of people aged 15-64 years reported having used cannabis at least once in life (level of cannabis consumption over life in general population in EU Member States and Norway lies between 4% and 25%). In Romania, the prevalence rates of other illicit drugs use (heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy and LSD) throughout life was less than 1%.

Injecting Drug Use - Public Health Issue

Harm Reduction

According to statistics provided by the NAA in Bucharest, at the end of 2004, there were between 24,000 and 30,000 heroin injection users. Of the 24 000 injecting heroin users over 65-70% were infected with hepatitis C, and only 10 people were HIV-positive.

The first services that are in direct contact with the active IDU are the outreach services and their policy is to reduce the risks associated with drug use - harm reduction (HR).

HR is a public health approach to drug use and focuses on reducing the negative consequences of drug use.

Harm Reduction is:

> An approach based on an integrated system of medical and social services

> A strategy aimed at changing risk behaviors

* A system that includes abstinence and/or risk reduction approach

* A pragmatic approach, based on studies and research

Harm Reduction is not:

* An encouragement to use drugs

* Related only to HIV

* Intended only for IDUs

* Drug-related only

HR philosophy is defined partly by a series of principles and its policies and programs follow them. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse provides the following principles largely recognized internationally:

1. Pragmatism:

Harm reduction accepts that the use of certain substances is a common feature of human experience. Also, HR believes that in addition to the risks and consequences of drug use, it provides consumers certain benefits to be taken into account if we want to understand drug behavior. …

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