Prevalence of Injection Drug Use in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA)

Prevalence and Trends

"The EECA region is home to an estimated one quarter of all people who inject drugs worldwide and has the fastest growing HIV epidemic related to unsafe injecting. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates the total number of opiate users in EECA is between 3.4 and 3.8 million people19. The UN Reference Group on HIV and Injecting Drug Use also suggests that there are around 3.7 million people who inject drugs in the region, with Eastern Europe having the highest regional prevalence of injecting drug use worldwide20.
"Yet although these challenges and trends have been evident for more than a decade, drug laws and implementation policies have not eased in most countries. Most laws and policies remain punitive and repressive, thereby leading to further stigmatization of and discrimination against people who use drugs as well as increased health harms. Rigid law enforcement and criminalization also have financial consequences, especially for governments. Aggressively pursuing people who use drugs, prosecuting them and imprisoning them is costly. It also has little success in the ultimate goal of reducing drug use in general, let alone among those imprisoned—the vast majority of whom return to using in the absence of comprehensive, evidence-based treatment support such as harm reduction. The health impacts of failing to prioritize policy reform are also costly. The costs of treating people living with HIV and other chronic health conditions are far greater over time than preventing infections in the first place."


Merkinaite, S. "A war against people who use drugs: the costs" (Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN): Vilnius, Lithuania, 2012), p. 13.