NEW YORK, JULY 16 -- In another glasnost-era first, the city of Moscow's Ministry of Health today announced an agreement with a Pennsylvania-based foundation to open an American-style alcohol and drug treatment facility in the Soviet Union.

The residential program, which will open next month in two dilapidated buildings in Moscow's Hospital #17, represents a shift in thinking on how to handle the country's enormous -- and increasing -- substance abuse problem, the ministry's chief narcotics expert, Dr. Edvard Drozdov, said at a news conference at the Russian Tea Room here.

Until now, standard practice in the Soviet Union has been to treat alcoholics and drug addicts with medical procedures such as blood transfusions, glucose injections, acupuncture and hypnosis. The new facility will offer psychological and socially-based treatment methods like group therapy and individual counseling, based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.

"We used to have in our country the opinion that alcoholism is a survival (sic) of capitalism," Drozdov said through an interpreter, "and {it} will be solved in socialistic society." He said Soviet doctors now recognize that alcoholism and drug abuse are more intractable than they thought.

"If we had no problems in health services and medical treatment, we wouldn't be here looking for new methods," he said.

The nonprofit Caron Foundation, which opened its first "Chit Chat" residential treatment center in 1959, now operates seven such facilities in Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York. Caron officials met Soviet health officials at a drug and alcohol treatment conference last year. Rick Esterly, chief executive officer of the Caron Foundation, traveled to the Soviet Union six times to help set up the program.

"In a socialist country there is very little concept of individual responsibility," Esterly said. "The government provides housing, jobs, and health care. The patients come in looking for a doctor to fix them." In contrast, Esterly said, "Our approach basically comes down to the idea of self-responsibility -- that everyone is responsible for helping themselves."

The Moscow center, however, will reach only a handful of the Soviet Union's 4.5 million known alcoholics, serving 30 clients at a time for four- to five-week periods. Moscow's Ministry of Health will pay clients' costs, while the Caron Foundation pays the counselors and physicians. So far, Caron has raised $25,000 from other foundations in dollars and in rubles, and is looking for additional sources of support for its $100,000 annual estimated program cost.

One of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's early initiatives five years ago was a crackdown on alcoholism, imposing higher fines for drunken drivers, shorter hours for liquor stores and a reduction in the production of vodka and other strong drinks. The Communist Party said it considered alcohol the leading cause of crime, divorce and accidental death, and a contributing factor to the decline in Soviet men's life expectancy since 1970 from 67 to 62 years.

"There is a lot of abuse of prescription drugs," Esterly said of the Soviet Union, "but by far the biggest problem is vodka. You see people in line for literally hours to buy vodka. . . . The problem is worse over there than it is here."

However, narcotics use is on the rise, especially in the southern part of the country, Drozdov said.

"If the ruble will become convertible," Drozdov said, referring to the possibility that Soviet currency will be internationalized, "this problem will become much more urgent."