By Olga Belyaeva

Vienna, 2018 “Do you use drugs yourself?” – a representative of China teasingly asks me at the meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.  This drug control officer who is convinced of the “effectiveness” of the death penalty for the use and storage of substances. As a result, almost 4,000 people were executed for violations related to substances in 33 jurisdictions of the world. And about 27,000 people were killed without trial in the Philippines

I have been preparing to answer that question since 2004. Dnipro, Ukraine. Kestutis Butkus came from Lithuania to the meeting with drug control having OST medicine in his pocket. It was when our doctor Leonid Vlasenko and I were creating various opportunities for friendly judges and influential police officers to look at the life of drug users from the other, unusual, side.  It’s important to consider the theory that harm reduction is valuable but this argument doesn’t make law enforcement think so. The “knowledge” about psychoactive substances and drug users is rooted in our society too deeply. Even the word “methadone” itself provoked aggression among security officers. Everything changed in the moment when Kestutis put on the table what looked like a bottle of water, saying: “Here is methadone, people, it’s like any common medicine”. That was the moment when Kestutis changed the negotiation rules in the hall of the Law Academy with his simple gesture.