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Press Release: International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking (World Drug Day) 26 June 2020

The International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, also known as ‘World Drug Day’, is celebrated annually on 26 June. The theme of World Drug Day 2020 is “Better Knowledge for Better Care.” The field of addressing the drug problem has been ‘plagued’ by misinformation of many kinds.

This year’s theme aims at improving the understanding of the world drug problem and at fostering greater international cooperation for countering its impact on health, governance and security. Health-centred, rights-based and gender-responsive approaches to drug use and related diseases deliver better public health, and we need to do more to share this learning and support implementation.
This year’s theme teams up with the United Nations’ global initiative to combat misinformation around COVID-19, the ‘Verified’ campaign launched in May 2020.


Everyone should have access to dependence treatment : 1$ invested in treatment yields a return of 12$ in healthcare savings and reduced crime, #criminal justice costs. #FactsForSolidarity #WDD

Those 4 interventions are proven effective in reducing HIV transmission among ppl who use drugs:
-Needle and syringe programmes
-Opioid substitution therapy (OST)
-HIV testing and counselling
-Antiretroviral therapy
Improve access to OST in South Africa!
#FactsForSolidarity #WDD

People who use drugs are highly stigmatized & discriminated against, and are often unable or unwilling to access HIV and drug services for fear of arrest or harassment. Be kind and show that you care, share #FactsForSolidarity #WDD

Effective treatment, care and rehabilitation of people with drug use disorders is possible. Check the UNODC/WHO International Standards for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders: #FactsForSolidarity #WDD

Information is key. Providing people with facts and knowledge is a cornerstone for a better understanding and care to #LeaveNoOneBehind. Improve data collection in South Africa. Everyone can play a part, share #FactsForSolidarity! #WDD

Help children & youth in South Africa grow healthy: evidence-based prevention of the non-medical use of drugs has positive outcomes. Visit to make a difference! #ListenFirst #FactsForSolidarity #WDD
– Less mental health problems
– Less violent behaviour and delinquency
– Less risky sexual behaviours
– Better school performance)


Why to pay for drug treatment if people themselves have made a wrong choice?
The Member States of the United Nations have recognised in 2019 that drug dependence is a multi-factorial health issue. This means that there are multiple factors that increase the likelihood of someone to start to use drugs or to develop drug use disorders . These factors are largely outside of the control of the individual: they are linked, for example, to genetics, mental health or the environment (e.g. stress or trauma relating to living in a marginalised or violent community, difficulties in a family). Learn more in booklet 4 of the World Drug Report 2018. #FactsForSolidarity series #WDD

Should the Government be more strict with punishment of people who use drugs?

No, drug use disorders are multifactorial health disorders. As such, they can only be addressed effectively through drug treatment, health care and social protection offered in the context of a health system, as any other health disorder. Evidence-based and voluntary treatment of drug use disorders is effective in decreasing drug use, crime and recidivism and has been shown to be more cost-effective than no treatment or prison.

Moreover, the right to health is a fundamental human right and people who use drugs, including people with drug use disorders, do not lose their rights to care even when they are in contact with the criminal justice system, whether they’re in prison or not. In fact, treatment and care are recommended as an alternative to conviction or punishment in adequate cases of a minor nature. Learn more in the UNODC/WHO International Standards for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders and in the Handbook on treatment as an alternative to conviction and punishment.

Do drugs affect men and women differently?

Women absorb and metabolize many substances, including drugs, differently than men. Women with drug use disorders have higher rates of other health problems than the average, like for example, HIV/AIDS and co-occurring mental health disorders. Globally, access to health services is more limited for women with drug use disorders: although 1 in 3 people who use drugs is a woman, only 1 in 5 people in drug treatment is a woman. Moreover, proportionally more women than men are in prison for drug related offences.

Finally, women suffer double stigma and discrimination. Their specific needs should be considered in the provision of treatment, health care and social support services, as they have shown to do as well as their counterparts when offered evidence-based and gender sensitive services. Learn more in Chapter 5 of the UNODC/WHO International Standards for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders – Chapter 5 (2020).

Visit UNODC website to learn about the needs of women who use drugs in South Africa

Can people with drug use disorders be treated?

Drug dependence often follows the course of a chronic and relapsing health disorder that is characterised by changes in the way the brain functions persisting in the long term. Therefore, even for people in treatment, relapse is to be expected and should not be seen as a failure of treatment or of the individual.

Rather, the management of possible relapse should be a key and normal component of services offered for the treatment of drug use disorders. In fact, people with drug use disorders that are able to access evidence-based and voluntary treatment, health care and social protection, have been shown to be able to lead healthy and productive lives. Learn more in the UNODC/WHO (2020) International Standards for the Treatment of Drug use Disorders. #FactsForSolidarity series #WDD

Is methadone maintenance therapy considered a treatment?
Yes. Methadone is an opioid medication (long-acting opioid agonist) that is prescribed as a treatment for opioid dependence. Methadone reduces withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin without causing the “high” associated with the drug use. It reduces opioid craving and withdrawal and blocks the effects of opioids. Methadone helps people sustain long-term success and to reclaim active and meaningful lives. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can safely take methadone. Access to opioid substitution therapy should be increased in South Africa. #FactsForSolidarity series #WDD