Country Listing

Poland Table of Contents



As in the case of AIDS victims, communist regimes denied the existence of drug addicts. The first private drug treatment center opened in 1970, and in the 1970s health and legal professionals discussed the drug problem guardedly. Not until the 1980s were organizations founded to combat drug addiction, and they were harassed and limited by government agencies until 1989. In 1992 between 4,000 and 5,000 Poles dependent on narcotics were being treated at facilities of the national health service or social organizations. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare estimated that 200,000 to 250,000 persons were taking drugs at that time, however. In 1991 some 190 deaths were attributed to drug overdoses. Addicts under treatment were predominantly from the working class and the intelligeftsia, male, and younger than thirty years of age (nearly half were under twenty-four). The most commonly abused substance, kompot, was a powerful and physically devastating drug readily produced from the poppy plants grown widely in Poland. The drug was injected intravenously. Kompot moved through society via informal networks operating independently of the international drug market.

In the period from 1986 to 1992, drug abuse in Poland remained stable despite declining standards of living, rising unemployment, and a rising overall crime rate. As barriers to the West fell, however, amphetamine manufacture and trafficking introduced a new threat. By 1992, amphetamines from Poland were considered as serious a threat in Germany and Scandinavia as imported cocaine and heroine; at that time, an estimated 20 percent of amphetamines in Western Europe originated in Polish laboratories. The confiscation of 150 kilograms of cocaine in Poland in 1991 also indicated that domestic narcotics production was diversifying, and local authorities feared that Colombian drug cartels were investing in that activity. To counter criminal drug producers, who also were involved in other types of crime, Poland established a National Drug Bureau in 1991. Because kompot remained much cheaper and more accessible in the early 1990s, however, the Polish market for amphetamines remained very small. Meanwhile, a 1990 law made illegal the cultivation of poppies without a government permit, and a new, morphine-free poppy species was introduced in 1991 to enable farmers to continue poppy cultivation.

In 1992 nineteen of Poland's drug rehabilitation centers were operated by the Young People's Movement to Combat Drug Addiction (known by its Polish acronym, MONAR). Although hundreds of people were cured in such centers in the 1980s, the severe treatment methods of MONAR's two-year program caused controversy in the Polish health community. For that reason, in 1990 the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare began opening clinics that emphasized preparing individuals for life after treatment.

Data as of October 1992