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    DISTRIBUTION OF FREE SYRINGES TO DRUG-USERS TO BE SUPERVISED

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    MOSCOW, February 3, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Grigory Dubovitsky) - The Russian State Drug Control Committee is not going to ban the distribution of free syringes to drug-addicts, but is planning to "streamline" the process, its deputy chairman Alexander Mikhailov told RIA Novosti.

    The syringes are distributed in Russia by a number of public associations, who think it is a way to reduce the damage done by the use of drugs.

    However, according to the Drug Control Committee source, quite a few of them lack the necessary experience and professional training. In addition, in some cases such "damage reducing" programs "cover quacks, who simply talk people into taking drugs," Mikhailov said.

    He also referred to foreign experience in this sphere: according to him, such practice "often leads to the opposite result." Mikhailov reported that an addition to the Criminal Code Article stipulating responsibility for persuading people to take drugs, would come into force on March 1. In accordance with that addition, all the efforts to help drug-users will have to be agreed with the Committee from then on.

    According to Mikhailov, a scheme of cooperation between medical centers and the Committee is being worked on today. In particular, new forms of drug-users registration are being developed.

    He also underlined that the Committee staff are not going to prosecute drug-users.

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