Forbidden in Russia: how do people order drugs via the Internet and why are they imprisoned for it

Chapter 1. Bupropion

“Girl, stop, please. You are accused of smuggling: put your backpack on the floor,

put your parcel and phone there,” 24-year-old Daria Belyaeva heard as she left post office No. 4 in the center of Yekaterinburg.

It was about 4:00 pm, April 8th. The phone, which Daria had put in her backpack, at the request of the police, could not be used practically until night time. She was not given the opportunity to call family and friends, contact a lawyer. After waiting for the witnesses to open the parcel, the law enforcement agencies, together with the girl, went to the customs department at the airport Koltsovo.

A few hours before receiving the parcelcustoms officers received information from anonymous sources that there may be something prohibited in it. The package showed an atypical antidepressant based on bupropion - the only one in its class and very different in its mechanism of action from all other drugs on the market.

Until 2016, bupropion was legally almost every Russian pharmacy under the Velbutrin brand - not only as an antidepressant, but also as a means to facilitate the fight against smoking: it affects the nicotinic receptors and averts tobacco. Later, GlaxoSmithKline decided not to renew the registration of this drug in Russia due to low demand and complicated bureaucratic processes during the re-registration. After that, for three years, patients quietly imported the drug from other countries, completely unaware that one day it would become dangerous.

Bupropion- an atypical antidepressant, one of the mostpopular in the world. This drug has been on the market for 30 years. At the end of 2017, it became the fourth most popular drug in this area in the United States - psychotherapists and even general practitioners prescribed it almost 25 million times. It is used in very different cases - for various forms of depression, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, as well as for the treatment of nicotine addiction and even for the correction of side effects in the form of sexual disorders caused by other drugs.

In the customs department Koltsovo Daria almost tospent the nights waiting for the results of a short medical examination - at this time the police assured her to write an explanatory and a confession, promising that she would face the maximum "fine or a small conditional." “It was only after meeting with the duty lawyer that I learned that I have two articles: one is simply heavy, the other is especially heavy. And nothing good except 10–20 years in prison awaits me, ”says Daria Belyayeva. “No one said anything to confess this to me.”

It is still unknown who initiated thisprocess and on whose tip-up customs decided to examine the bupropion which had been sold in Russia for decades. As a result, the Ural Customs Service reported that there were “30 tablets containing the drug ephedron with a total weight of 10.6 g” in Belyaeva’s package. Russian legislation considers such volumes of narcotic drugs to be particularly large, with an average of up to 20 years in prison being given for them.

Customs also indicated that ephedronaddicts are used to stimulate the adrenergic system - roughly speaking, to produce adrenaline and noradrenaline with stimulation of the central nervous system. The fact that bupropion is used for the treatment of schizotypal personality disorder around the world, and for the production of drugs from a drug, chemicals are needed that also cannot be obtained legally in the local market, and the whole laboratory and almost a chemist’s education were not specified in the department.

According to her, she decided to order the drug Belyaevon her own - she discussed with her doctor what kind of a drug there was, and she decided to try it. Previous medications simply did not help her. Now, while the support group Belyaeva is collecting money in social networks for an independent examination, she again began to drink the pills she had taken initially.

About the future, the girl speaks reluctantly - sheis under a written undertaking not to leave the place, when the trial will take place - it is unclear how much time it will still have to collect money for an independent examination and consultation of an outside psychiatrist-narcologist, we can only guess. According to her, the case may last for several months: there is still a forensic examination in a psychiatric hospital.

Direct prohibition of the import and circulation of bupropion inRussia does not exist. In the conclusion of the examination of customs officers, it is stated that bupropion and ephedron have a similar structure - respectively, the drug, in their opinion, is a narcotic derivative (which is actually not the case). This conclusion allows them to come note to the list of psychotropic substances subject to control in Russia, which was updated in 2012.

Then the list added that in Russia alsoall derivatives of narcotic and psychotropic substances, which differ from the original compound based on the mechanism of formal substitution of hydrogen atoms, halogens and hydroxyl groups in the chemical structure (the total number of carbon atoms in the resulting substance should not exceed their number in the original) are prohibited. This was done in order to combat designer drugs.

The fate of the Russians taking bupropion,also remains unknown. On May 14, Moscow Customs detained the employees of the Viagra Guru online store, which traded the means for increasing potency and various dietary supplements. Among their products are anti-smoking drugs Unidep based on bupropion. Now three employees of the store - Samir, Tatiana and Nikolay - face up to 20 years in prison for smuggling drugs on a large scale. The detention took place according to a scenario similar to the case of Daria Belyaeva: the customs did not allow to contact the relatives, and the appointed lawyer advised them to sign all the plea documents.

In the article about the drug in "Wikipedia" appearedpoint that he was allegedly banned for importation into Russia - the material was updated on April 24, 2019 - two weeks after the detention of Belyaeva. Other portals, for example, Medusa in a recent article on the dangers of smoking, still advise using bupropion to reduce the craving for smoking.

RT journalists wrote a lot of material aboutthe appeal of State Duma Deputy Yaroslav Nilov to the Prosecutor General’s Office - he demanded to check the actions of the police officers who were persecuting people purchasing bupropion. In the material, the publication also says that customs is pursuing a few more people for ordering bupropion, but these stories are not publicly known as in the case of Belyaeva.

Police detained and wholesaler of the drug inRussia, which ordered large quantities in other countries, after which it sold at a premium to a Russian patient. On Avito, you can still find a huge number of ads for the sale of drugs based on bupropion, but almost all of these numbers are not available, in other sellers say that they have not sold it for a long time.

The tablets seized from Daria Belova: commercial name “Elontril”, active ingredient - bupropion. Photo: Ural Customs Department

Professional chemists and experts criticizeapproach of the Ministry of Health, customs and police. According to Roman Becker, a well-known psychopharmacologist in RuNet, in Russia, as well as throughout the world, there is another antidepressant, venlafaxine, which by its chemical structure resembles several well-known drugs: psychostimulant phenylethylamine (PEA) and opioid analgesic tramadol ("Tramal").

"Venlafaxine is similar to them to the same extent, towhat bupropion is for ephedron. And theoretically, it is also possible to get drugs from venlafaxine. But in practice, no one will be involved. Because it is very difficult, it requires rare equipment, special knowledge and expensive reagents, as is the case with bupropion, ”says Becker. - At the same time, individuals cannot buy these reagents, it is simply impossible. And for the purchase of reagents by legal entities, huge justifications and a story about the purpose of their acquisition are needed. Taking into account the considerable price of the antidepressant itself, it turns out that the drug obtained in this way will be just gold. There are much simpler ways of acquiring it, even if they are illegal. ”

"Venlafaxine, like bupropion, affects the reverseseizure of dopamine. “Theoretically, any medicine that affects dopamine reuptake can be used for recreational purposes and even lead to the development of dependence,” Becker continues. “But the effect of both venlafaxine and bupropion on the reuptake of dopamine is so weak that only a few cases are described in the scientific literature all over the world when these drugs in their original form were used for recreational purposes.”

Venlafaxine is now sold in Russia underseveral trademarks - foreign, including “Velafax”, “Velaksin”, “Venlaksor”, “Efevelon” and “Newvelong”, as well as Russian - “Venlafaksin Organika” or “Alsi”.

Chapter 2. Ritalin

We meet with Andrew (name changed by requesthero - “Hightech”) not far from a small industrial zone in the center of Moscow. A large man in a worn brown leather jacket - despite the May heat - shows me a small package, which he took from his usual place five minutes before my arrival - he has been picking up bookmarks for several years already. The package contains Ritalin, which is necessary for his seven-year-old daughter with attention deficit disorder.

In Russia, methylphenidate is the active substancedrug - legally prohibited to use and trafficking, in fact, equated to narcotic drugs. There is simply no legal way to buy Ritalin in Russia, so Andrey and a small group of parents who find themselves in the same situation buy it on darknet. On the question of suppliers, Andrew evasively answers that he works only with proven ones, since he needs to know that the drug will be real.

Darknet- a hidden network whose connectionsare installed only between trusted peers using non-standard protocols and ports. An anonymous “network” of unconnected virtual tunnels that provides encrypted data transmission. Currently, the darknet is used, among other things, for the illicit trafficking of drugs, weapons and other prohibited goods.

Ritalin is the first line of treatment for deficiency syndromeattention and hyperactivity in children and adults. It is well researched for efficacy and safety and is officially approved worldwide for children from the age of six. “We are in a rather delicate situation, let's say. The authorities and the police may well give us many years for our adventures in industrial zones and forest parks, ”says Andrew, showing me the packaging of the drug. - On the other hand, we are in this position only because of the inaudibility of the legislation. Many drugs that help people live all over the world are considered narcotic in our country. I am silent about replacement therapy. ”

Andrew says that in the forest parksMoscow’s periphery often meets other people who are looking for bookmarks. It is quite simple to identify them - not in warm summer periods, people who, with telephones, go for hours around the same clearing, seem rather suspicious. It is unlikely that they are looking for bookmarks with Ritalin, adds Andrew, and smiles, since "they can be almost completely dispensed with by the entire pharmacy, but there are more pleasant and cheaper preparations for this."

According to the child psychiatrist Elizaveta Meshkova,sometimes Ritalin is brought to Russia by people with dual citizenship - they are taking the drugs along with a prescription and conclusions from a doctor from Israel or Europe, but even this delivery method is dangerous.

Now there are no prerequisites for thatRitalin will someday be available in Russian pharmacies. “In the 1990s, an attempt to resolve the issue of ritalin at the legislative level was made - and even then it failed. And since then there has been an order of magnitude less liberalism in our legislation, ”said Meshkova. - This situation concerns in our country not only Ritalin, but also many more vital drugs. For example, rectal forms of antiepileptic drugs (diazepam). I don’t know what our lawmakers think about, but definitely not about patients. ”

How do antidepressants differ from psychoactive substances (surfactants) with addictive potential (drugs)?

The key difference between antidepressants andPotential addictive surfactants are that antidepressants do not cause an immediate effect - a person who chooses to use them will not get instant euphoria, as it does with ordinary drugs. Moreover, in the first week of taking antidepressants, a person’s condition, as a rule, is slightly worse - a huge number of side effects of such drugs are associated with this.

Usually antidepressants start acting - andonly for patients with depression or another disorder - two to three weeks after the start of treatment. Antidepressants cannot improve the mood of a healthy person, especially to the extent that it occurs when taking drugs.

Potentially addictive surfactants - such as, for example, amphetamine or heroin, on the contrary, change the mood and mental state of healthy people as soon as the substance reaches the brain.

Chapter 3. Sibutramine

Every few months news appears in the media.on criminal cases for the order of drugs for weight loss with the active substance sibutramine (Part 1 of Article 226.1 of the Criminal Code - “Smuggling of potent, toxic, toxic, explosive, radioactive substances”).

As a rule, residents of Russia, not knowing that the saleSibutramine without a prescription has been banned since 2008, they order drugs from online stores in Kazakhstan. This allows you to significantly save on drugs, and customs - quickly detain all those who want to lose weight in this way.

In May 2019, two residents of Orenburgregions were sentenced to one and a half years imprisonment each for ordering sibutramine-based slimming products — only 35 g. In February 2019, a resident of the Volgograd region was detained for buying 30 cans of slimming agents — the FSB investigated the case, a man was convicted as a drug trafficker with high traffic.

Mostly buy drugs based onsibutramine through the community on VKontakte. Groups “Losing weight, losing weight together”, “Buy for weight loss” and a huge number of public networks on the social network offer to fill out a questionnaire for ordering medicines based on sibutramine. None of the administrators of these groups responded to the request of the journalist Hightek.

Almost all those accused of smugglingMedicines prohibited in Russia are detained when receiving a parcel or at the exit from the post office. Lawyers note that almost 99% of people detained for ordering drugs do not know about their legal status - otherwise no one would so easily come to the post office for these orders.

What to do if you are trying to delay the receipt of drugs at the post office

  • Do not sign any charge sheets or plea documents.
  • Try to contact relatives and a lawyer.
  • Give the case as much as possible in the media.

Before you order a drug, be sure to find out about its legal status in Russia.