Drug Dependence Treatment

The World Drug Report 2011 estimates that in 2009, between 149 and 272 million people, or 3.3% to 6.1% of the population aged 15-64 used illicit substances at least once in the previous year. About half that number is estimated to have been current drug users, that is, having used illicit drugs in the past month previous the assessment.

Developing countries, and particularly the least developed ones, are affected by enormous economic and social problems including a dramatic lack of health care facilities, poor or inexistent welfare and educational systems, lack of state presence, and corruption. Social inequalities induce social exclusion, deprivation, marginalization and hopelessness. In these conditions drug use, violence and crime are common undermining public health, social and economic development, community cohesion and in general the future of new generations.

One of the most severe consequences of drug use is the spread of HIV and other blood borne disease such as Hepatitis B and C. Drug use, especially injecting drug use (IDU) is closely linked to HIV transmission through the sharing needles, but also in relationship to the risky behaviours of non-injecting drug users.

The efforts to reduce illicit drug demand, with appropriate prevention, treatment and sustainable livelihood programs may consistently prevent the severe health and social consequences of long lasting drug use, such as HIV, Hepatitis and many other medical disorders. Comprehensive demand reduction interventions, including specific harm reduction activities, have been proven effective in counteracting HIV epidemics and breaking its vicious circle with poverty/underdevelopment and drug use.

In many countries individuals affected by drug dependence, psychiatric disorders and HIV are concentrated in prison settings, usually in destitute condition, excluded from real opportunities for rehabilitation and treatment. This population of inmates is easily relapsing in substance abuse after release from prison, with further engagement in criminal activities and unprotected sex. This translates into a heavy cost for society as well as risk for public health and security.

Unfortunately, although an increasing body of knowledge demonstrates that drug dependence treatment and measures to reduce the harm caused by drugs are effective if implemented through a number of qualified comprehensive interventions, the dissemination of good practice facilities is still scarce, often not based on sound scientific evidence and not fully accessible to those most in need.