Specialist for drug-addiction: “Soon the whole youth will be walking with shaking hands.”
Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti
Statistics demonstrate that the number of drug-addicts has taken a sharp increased in the region. It is also clear that age of drug-abusers is much younger than previously thought. Specialists have signed an alarm that the situation is urgent as teens and young adults start their drug habits much earlier, even at the range of 10-15 years of age. Official data states that in comparison to 2006 drug crimes has been tripled in Kakheti region in 2007. Despite the urgent situation there is no medical center where drug-abusers are able to get access to treatment. An anti-drug program has not been implemented and the situation is getting worst each day.
Mariam Khotenashvili, the doctor for the Scientific Research Institute for Drug Addiction, discussed the problem with the Human Rights Center.
-Ms. Khotenashvili, how many drug-addicts are registered in Georgia?
-250 thousand people are registered throughout Georgia as being addicts to illegal substances. Although this is the official figure, the number is much responsible departments within the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs. One of similar anti-addiction department worked in the office of Patrol Police Station in the village of Chalaubani; another one started functioning in Telavi Police Station a short time ago. These departments are in charge of determining whether this or that person is under influence of some illegal substance.
-What could you tell us about the reduced age of drug-addiction?
-I should say that the situation very urgent. We have already encountered several cases when drug-addicts were as young as 10, 11 and 12 years old, and they had been taking drug injections. Besides that, recently a very dangerous attitude towards toxic substances has been exposed, which serious bring about neurological complications.
-What kind of toxic substances do you speak about?
-The fact that medicines that causes a sense of euphoria and leads a person to terrible condition are sold at drug-shops and with without any problems. For example, these medicines are “Actifed”; anti-fever substances like “Nolgrip”, “Coldrex’; as well as anti-depressants “Cuaxil”. Everybody can buy the above-mentioned medicines across the counter.
-That means a person can buy such medicines without doctor’s prescription?
-Yes they can and that is why we are especially concerned. The above-mentioned medicines are not banned and are not even restricted. People can buy manganese crystals and iodine without any problems at the drug stores. At one of the conferences Gela Lezhava, leading specialist of the Clinic for Addiction, raised a question about banning the non-restrictive sale of substances but his efforts were in vain. Only “Cuaxil” is sold base on doctor’s prescription; though in most cases drug-addicts get hold of this medicine by other means. I have not discussed such narcotic substances like Heroine, Marihuana and Subotex. Marihuana is mostly used in districts. Terrible is the situation in Kakheti District and particularly in Gurjaani District. The younger generation will soon be walking with shaking hands and that is on the level of social crisis.
-What is the reason for increased number of addicts and what will be the long-term impact of using such substances?
-All these substances bring terrible results to addicts, such as acute neurological diseases like Parkinson disease and extra-pyramidal nervous behavior. It might also be responsible for a range of psychic disorder, derangement of speech, which all can lead to varying degrees of stress and anxiety. Finally, we could say that a patient is practically doomed to a death sentence. We are also facing a difficult situation with alcoholism. The problems are symptoms of the overall poor social conditions, low economic level and are not helped because of a lack of resolve on the part of society and government in facing these problems.
-Do we have any institution in the region where a drug user can appeal for a substantial medical treatment or where any preventive activities are implemented in Kakheti?
-Currently we do not have such services in this region. There is not a single mental-hospital in Kakheti Region, let alone any hospital that deals with problems of substance addiction. There are several centers working on the problem in Tbilisi but the situation is especially bad in regions and in this sphere of specialization.
Drug stores do not deny the fact that anti-fever medicines are in great demand and they are often sold, especially in the evening, and the same is confirmed by specialist who work with drug addiction.
“Narcotic or similar medicines are under strict controlled. Georgian legislation envisages similar restriction on medicines that should not be sold without a doctor’s prescription. “Cuaxil” is on the list of similar medicines. Manganese crystals are inserted on the list of volatile substances that should not be sold without a prescription, and this is in spite that it has been withdrawn from the network. “Actifed” consists of ephedrol which causes temporary euphoria in fact. This medicine is still freely sold at drug stores. The same can be said about “Coldrex” and “Nolgrip”. Iodine is in great demand too particularly in the evenings and during evening hours. We are also very surprised why so much iodine is sold. Anyway I cannot tell you why they need it,” said Nino Batsashvili, manager of Drug-shop # 76 of PSP Company.
Statistics report that in 2006 Kakheti based eight district courts discussed nearly 100 criminal cases dealing with drugs. Nearly 500 people were charged and had to pay fines for drug abuse.
In 2007 the number of criminal cases dealing with drugs has tripled and it has reached 271. The higher age bracket of those arrested for illegal production, storage and sale of narcotic substances falls between 18 and 24 years of age. Juveniles are also being convicted for similar crimes.
Throughout 2007 district courts fined over 1000 people under administrative legal procedures.
Specialists claim that treatment for drug users is very expensive and it can be afforded only in Tbilisi.
Treatment for heroine-addict costs 1,800 GEL; for Subotex-abusers it costs 1,600 GEL. Rapid detoxication method, which lasts only five days under general anesthesia, costs 2,000 GEL; treatment on alcohol addiction which lasts for seven days costs 640 GEL.