International Day Against Drugs – Messages by the UN’s Secretary-General & Executive Director, UNODC

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GENEVA

26 June 2020

UN’s Secretary-General

“Mutual support and trustworthy information have proven to be pillars of responding effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic and saving lives.

Cooperation, reliable data and evidence-based action are just as vital to addressing the many challenges posed by the world drug problem, protecting people’s security and realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.

This year’s theme of International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking — “Better Knowledge for Better Care” — speaks to the need to build solutions based on facts and shared responsibility.

The international community has a solid foundation for action, with an agreed legal framework and commitments outlined in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.  The United Nations, in line with its common position on drug policy, is also enriching the evidence base, including through the annual UNODC World Drug Report.

We must also strive to build on what works.  As Prime Minister of Portugal more than two decades ago, my government launched a drug policy rooted in taking strong action in two areas.  First, by cracking down on drug trafficking and those who profit from human misery. And, second, on making sure that those who need treatment get it.  Those who develop an addiction to drugs are first and foremost patients and victims.  That approach succeeded and drug consumption went down significantly, particularly among young people.  Today, Portugal has one of Europe’s lowest death rates from drug use.

Together, we can develop sustainable alternatives to illicit drug crop cultivation; tackle drug trafficking and related organized crime; and advance justice responses as well as prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug use and related HIV interventions.  And we can do so in ways that are sensitive to the needs of women, young people and marginalized groups and that respect human rights. “

UNODC Executive Director 

“Know more, care more. Addressing the world drug problem requires responses that are based on facts, solidarity and compassion.

Some 35.6 million people suffer from drug use disorders globally, according to the World Drug Report 2020 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Around 269 million people used drugs in 2018, up 30 per cent from 2009. While the increase reflects population growth and other factors, illicit drugs – including opiates and pharmaceutical opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine – are still more available, more diverse and more potent than before, challenging law enforcement, posing greater health risks and complicating efforts to prevent and treat drug use disorders.

Adolescents and young adults account for the largest share of those using drugs. Of the 11 million people who inject drugs, half of them are living with hepatitis C, and 1.4 million with HIV.

Only one out of eight people who need drug-related treatment receive it. One out of three drug users is a woman but women represent only one out of five people in treatment. People in prison settings, minorities, immigrants and displaced people also face barriers to treatment due to discrimination and stigma.

585,000 died in 2017 in relation to drug use, up one-quarter from 2008. Over the past decade, the total number of deaths due to opioid use disorders went up 71 percent, with a 92 percent increase among women compared with 63 percent among men.

All over the world, we see that risks and consequences of drug use are worsened by poverty, limited opportunities for education and jobs, stigma and social exclusion, which in turn helps to deepen inequalities, moving us further away from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The COVID-19 crisis has intensified these challenges further still, overwhelming health systems and exposing the fragility of institutions and social safety nets.

The theme of this year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, “Better Knowledge for Better Care”, highlights the need to understand drug dynamics trapping so many millions of people in a downward spiral, to inform balanced solutions that are based on scientific evidence, to know better what the issues are and to provide better care for those who need it.

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, most of all in developing countries.

Governments pledged to advance such balanced, comprehensive and evidence-based responses in the 2019 CND Ministerial Declaration. In the COVID-19 recovery, we need all countries to act on their commitments, and show shared responsibility to tackle illicit drug supply and reduce demand. We need civil society and youth organizations to continue their efforts to support the vulnerable in their communities.

Together, we can pursue more effective prevention and protection, to build resilience as we build back better, and leave no one behind.”

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