Bath Salts Are A Big Problem In Russia, Especially For Women

By Victoria Kim 12/20/17

More and more Russian women are injecting "salts," raising the risk of spreading HIV and hepatitis C.

bath salts
photo via DEA

According to a new report, Russian women are being “decimated” by the designer drug known as bath salts. The drug, known as "salts" in Russia, can be swallowed, snorted or smoked, but more women are injecting the drug, raising the risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis C.

The Daily Beast’s Anna Nemtsova reports that in 2017 almost 46.1% of new HIV cases in Russia have been linked to drug use. Heroin is also a problem in Russia, but “the newer epidemic is salts,” reads the report, funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. 

Hundreds of thousands of Russians use salts, giving rise to the saying: “There is as much salts in Siberia as snow.” The drugs can kill after just two or three years of using it, says Nikolai Novopashin, the founder of a rehab center in the Stavropol region who has submitted several requests to the government to ban salts.

"There are no official statistics on how many Russians are suffering from the salts disaster, since the addicts die of heart problems, of cancer and other diseases [which are listed as causes of death]," said Novopashin. "But I can tell you, that today salts kill Russians all over the country."

The Daily Beast reports that more and more women are injecting salts, increasing the risk of spreading HIV and hepatitis C. “But far from deterring their addiction, their diseases become a further reason for it,” Nemtsova writes.

According to the New York Times, one million Russians are living with HIV as of 2016. 

Nemtsova interviewed both female drug users in Irkutsk and the Russians on the other side of the drug crisis whose job it is to help these women. 

“We need an army of social workers to help these women living on drugs, living with HIV, in fear, without a chance to find a job,” said Aleksei Trutnev, who heads Navigator, a nongovernmental center that works to help drug users. “There is no special rehabilitation center for women in Irkutsk; ideally, we would like to see a place where women could socialize, feel needed, feel helped and not abandoned.”

Many women refuse help. “We often deal with women alcoholics or drug users who refuse to receive HIV treatment even during their pregnancy or give HIV treatment to their HIV positive babies,” said Yulia Plotnikova, head doctor of Irkutsk AIDS Center.

One dose of salts costs less than $10. The women work odd jobs, usually involving sex work or drug dealing, to earn money to buy salts.

It doesn’t help that there is little compassion for drug users among Russians. According to a survey by VTSIOM, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, this year 78% of Russians favored locking up drug users. The State Duma, Russia’s parliament, is even considering a bill that “would allow the prosecution of drug users.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr