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Substance Abuse Treatment in Russia and Hungary
The author experienced a time warp when she observed treatment facilities in the formerly Communist countries
In March of 1992, I had the opportunity to be the leader of a delegation of substance abuse experts to Russia and Hungary under the sponsorship of People to People, the Citizen Ambassador Program. The multidisciplinary group included five physicians, several nurses, several counselors, a teacher, and a medical technician. Everyone in the group either was in recovery or had a family member who had addictive disease, so there was extensive AA, NA, and Al-Anon experience. Most of us had also done extensive reading on what was available for treatment in Russia or other eastern countries, and we also brought along large quantities of AA and Al-Anon literature, translated into Russian and Hungarian.
The goals of our trip, as with all Citizen Ambassador Program delegations, was to meet with our foreign counterparts, and get to know them as people. Specifically, we wanted to talk with them about attitudes toward substance abuse, current treatment methods, discussion of problems with particular drugs, and 12-step programs. By sharing experience, we hoped we would have a better understanding of each other.
We arrived in St. Petersberg (Leningrad) on a cold, wet, foggy morning. As we drove into the city from the airport, everything appeared to be falling apart. Roads and streets were full of pot holes; apartment buildings appeared to be crumbling. There were very few cars and everyone seemed to be out walking on this rainy dismal day.
The weather seemed to set the tone for a great deal of what we were to see and feel. On our first visit, to the Department of Health, we first saw a video about "The Most Beautiful City in the World - the Venice of the North." We also heard about the programs that are offered for school children and teachers on hygiene, tobacco, alcohol and drugs, which are considered "social behaviors." There is …