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Sex, drugs and economic behaviour in Russia: a study of socio-economic characteristics of high risk populations


Wall, Martin; Schmidt, Elena; Sarang, Anya; Atun, Rifit; & Renton, Adrian (2011). Sex, drugs and economic behaviour in Russia: a study of socio-economic characteristics of high risk populations. International Journal of Drug Policy, 22(2), 133-139.


Russia faces a worsening IDU/HIV epidemic. This paper examines the social and economic characteristics of injecting drug users in two cities in Russia and compares this with the general population to explore their social and economic needs and the wider implications of the epidemic for the economy and society.

A cross sectional survey of 711 IDUs in two Russian cities (Volgograd and Barnaul) recruited by a modified chain referral sampling method. Respondents were asked about their education, work, living conditions, expenditure on goods and services and livelihoods. Their characteristics were compared with a random sample of the general population.

There are a number of characteristics, in which IDUs do not differ systematically from the general population. They have general education; live in the towns where they were born; and their monthly income is comparable with the Russian average. However, IDUs are more likely to have a vocational qualification than a university degree; less likely to have a permanent job; and those employed are skilled manual rather than professional workers. IDUs are less likely to be officially married and more likely to be living with their parents or on their own. The majority rely on financial help from relatives or friends; and much of their income is from illegal or semi-legal activities.

IDUs are not atypical or marginal to the Russian economy and society. However, their drug-dependency and related life-style make them particularly vulnerable to the impact of poverty, violence and social insecurity. A failure to effectively control the dual IDU/HIV epidemic can have a significant negative impact on the Russian labour force, health and social costs and overall economy.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

International Journal of Drug Policy


Wall, Martin
Schmidt, Elena
Sarang, Anya
Atun, Rifit
Renton, Adrian