There is considerable variance in how countries in the regions of Eastern, Central and Southern Europe, as well as Central Asia and Transcaucasia, are affected by “the world drug problem” and their responses to this public health challenge. However, what they face in common is a high prevalence of injection drug use (IDU) and serious epidemics of HIV and HCV affecting people who inject drugs (PWID). According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the estimated prevalence of IDU among people aged 15-64 in countries of Eastern Europe is 1.26%, the highest prevalence in the world; this is followed by the countries of Central Asia and Transcaucasia at a prevalence of 0.63%.
In parallel, and not coincidentally, many countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Transcaucasia are home to imbalanced and outdated drug laws and policies deeply rooted in the legacy of their common Soviet past. Although these countries have undergone legal and policy reforms on many fronts over the last 30 years, drug laws remain largely intact and rooted in archaic core punitive principles. This is true even for the three Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) that, despite having joined the European Union (EU) more than a decade ago, have nonetheless maintained drug laws similar to those in Russia and Ukraine.
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