Monday, January 18, 2016

Policing, Massive Street Drug Testing & Poly-Substance Use Chaos in Georgia

Since early 2000, intensive policing, wide scale street drug testing, and actions aimed at limiting the availability of specific drugs have been implemented in Georgia. Supporters of this approach argue that fear of drug testing and resulting punishment compels drug users to stop using and prevents youth from initiating drug use. It has been also stated that reduction in the availability of specific drugs should be seen as an indication of the overall success of counter-drug efforts. The aim of the current review is to describe the drug-related law enforcement response in Georgia and its impact on illicit drug consumption and drug-related harm.

We reviewed relevant literature that included peer-reviewed scientific articles, stand-alone research reports, annual drug situation reports, technical reports and program data. This was also supplemented by the review of relevant legislation and judicial practices for the twelve year period between 2002 and 2014.

Every episode of reduced availability of any "traditional" injection drug was followed by the discovery/introduction of a new injection preparation. The pattern of drug consumption was normally driven by users' attempts to substitute their drug of choice through mixing together available alternative substances. Chaotic poly-substance use and extensive utilization of home-made injection drugs, prepared from toxic precursors, became common. Massive random street drug testing had little or no effect on the prevalence of problem drug use.

Intensive harassment of drug users and exclusive focus on reducing the availability of specific drugs did not result in reduction of the prevalence of injecting drug use. Repressive response of Georgian anti-drug authorities relied heavily on consumer sanctions, which led to shifts in drug users' behavior. In most cases, these shifts were associated with the introduction and use of new toxic preparations and subsequent harm to the physical and mental health of drug consumers.

Below:  Trends in drugs injected in Georgia in 2002–2014 based on BBSS data (percentages exceed 100 % due to multiple responses, depending on a current poly-substance use by respondents)

Below:  Trends in injecting drug use in Georgia 2007–2014 based on GHRN data (percentages exceed 100 % due to multiple responses, depending on a current poly-substance use by respondents)

Below:  Number of patients treated for substance use disorders in 2003–2013

Below:  Number of individuals tested for drugs and number of positive results, 2006–2013

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