asiaNet Eurasia Insight
According to government officials, Kazakhstan had about 37,000 drug users in 1999. However, independent experts put the figure at around 200,000, according to the report, titled Uncovering the Dangers of Drug Use in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The study was commissioned by the International Harm Reduction Project of the Open Society Institute in New York.
The drugs of choice in Kazakhstan are heroin and cannabis, an abundance of which is grown in the Chui Valley. The cost of treatment, including detoxification, is about $300 -- far beyond the financial reach of the average Kazakh citizen. The government provides few services that are aimed at rehabilitating drug users. Most users are under 25 years of age, and up to three-fourths of those who receive treatment suffer relapses.
In recent years, many users have shifted from smoking narcotics to injecting them, according to the study. Many users share their injection equipment. The report estimates that roughly 30 percent of drug users are completely uninformed about the dangers of HIV-AIDS. In addition, an estimated 30 percent of prostitutes in Kazakhstan are regular drug users. According to official statistics, there were 1,045 reported HIV cases in Kazakhstan in 2000 85 percent of those who tested positive were infected by sharing contaminated drug syringes.
The study also says Kazakhstan is experiencing a rise in use of so-called designer drugs, such as Ecstacy and LSD, among affluent, urbanized young people. Nevertheless, these drugs are not as prevalent as opium and heroin.
In Kazakhstan, it is illegal to possess narcotics, but not to use drugs. Approximately two-thirds of the prison population, estimated at about 90,000, are serving sentences for drug-related offenses.
Click here to read about trends in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Those wishing to find out more about
the report can contact Anna Moshkova at the Open Society Institute.
She can be reached by email at: [email protected]