Drug abuse is a complex problem at the intersection of public health, safety and social issues. It takes a heavy toll on our families and communities, claiming more than half a million lives per year. The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking shines a spotlight on this preventable crisis, and on the global quest to advance successful responses.
The international community is determined to address and counter the world drug problem, reaffirming its resolve in the Ministerial Declaration adopted at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna last March. To be effective, holistic approaches are needed. Integrated solutions are only possible when fair and humane institutions of criminal justice, health and social services work hand in hand.
The theme of this year’s International Day, “Health for Justice – Justice for Health”, reflects this imperative.
Drug dependence is a chronic health disorder and as such needs to be prevented and treated in line with international standards and science. Health and justice cooperation are essential to closing the gaps, making sure responses include youth and women, fight discrimination and promote alternatives to imprisonment for people with drug use disorders.
In the face of over-incarceration for drug-related offences of a lesser gravity, including those committed by people who use drugs, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has reminded States of the possibility set forth in the drug control conventions to apply alternative measures to conviction or punishment and of the need to ensure respect for the principle of proportionality in the determination of penalties.
Social inclusion and building resilience, as well as rehabilitation and reintegration, are instrumental in helping prevent crime and violence. Connectedness and communication in families, schools and communities can play a major role in strengthening our societies’ defences against drugs.
Better understanding of drug problems is also needed. Research and analysis are necessary to inform policy and enable international cooperation around evidence-based solutions.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime remains committed to supporting all countries to work together and promote balanced, health- and rights-based approaches to drug challenges, building on the international drug control conventions, human rights obligations and the Sustainable Development Goals.