Islamic Republic of Iran

Regional Meeting on Drug Demand Reduction

TEHRAN, 6 October 2010 (UNIC)--United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) and Drug Control Headquarters (DCHQ) of the Islamic Republic of Iran co-organized a regional workshop on drug abuse prevention, drug dependence treatment and care services in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, in Tehran on 5 and 6 October 2010.

PHOTO.A.SCOTTIThe meeting brought together drug demand reduction experts and policy makers from Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Tajikistan, as well as from UNODC offices in the region. Participants identified gaps and required actions to improve the availability and accessibility of quality drug abuse prevention, drug dependence treatment and care services in this region.

More people die from heroin overdose in the world than from any other drug. By the end of this year, heroin will have killed more than 100.000 people in West Asia, Russia and Europe. Across the globe there are believed to be 11 million heroin users. In Afghanistan and neighbouring countries there are an estimated 2.5 to 3 million opiate regular users. Further to heroin and opium use, national authorities and UNODC are also seriously concerned about a growing trend of Amphetamine-type stimulants use in the region.

Government and UNODC officials recognised the importance of referring to scientific evidence in the implementation of prevention and treatment interventions. In the field of substance abuse disorders, science has obtained reliable results, showing that specific educational intervention in prevention and integrated psychosocial and pharmacological programmes in drug treatment are effective and efficient. The finding of science should be translated in daily practice and adapted to the social and cultural needs of the region.

Participants called for science-based prevention and treatment to be considered as a priority in all countries. In the area of drug prevention, they emphasized the need for science-based training for professionals and parents, as well as for the educational system and the media. Furthermore, they called for the establishment of a regional research network to adapt science-based prevention methods used around the world to social and cultural conditions and needs of the region. Science-based drug prevention work should target vulnerable groups: adolescent at risk, including adolescent with economic and social disadvantages, as well as street children.

"Drug users should be treated as patients, not as criminals", emphasized Dr. Gilberto Gerra, Chief of Drug Prevention and Health, UNODC. In his opening remarks he underlined the importance of evidence-based programmes and called for improved data collection for a better response in the area of drug demand reduction and HIV control in this region.

Dr. Gerra stated that substance abuse should be considered a complex multifactorial disease. It is not the result of an individual free choice, but the outcome of a history of psychosocial disadvantages inducing a condition of vulnerability. For this reason drug users and drug dependent individuals should receive help, information, social support, treatment and reintegration opportunities.

"Governments should provide a continue of care, assisting the individual affected by drug use disorders in all stages of their problematic history", said Dr. Gerra. He added "government should respond to the individual clinical needs and facilitate the full recovery process".

Mr. Antonino De Leo, Representative of the UNODC Country Office in the Islamic Republic of Iran, commended drug demand reduction efforts in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Good practices in the area of harm reduction, including in the prison setting were highly praised. In particular, the work of the Iranian Prison Organization was singled out as effective in addressing the problems of drug abuse and HIV in the penitentiary system. The work of drug treatment centres run by government entities, NGOs and the private sector, and also comprehensive drug treatment and services are among other good practices carried out in the country under the co-ordination of the Iranian Drug Control Headquarters. Promising scientific-based prevention programmes targeting vulnerable groups have also been launched by the DCHQ in recent years.

Mr. De Leo said that UNODC in Iran has been working with national authorities to support a science-based approach to drug abuse and HIV prevention and care since the establishment of the Country Office in Tehran in 1999. UNODC work in the country would have not been possible without the financial contribution of several European countries. Additional efforts are now being made by UNODC, in co-operation with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, DCHQ and international partners, to launch new technical assistance and co-operation initiatives for the next four years including in the area of drug demand reduction.

In concluding his remarks, Mr. De Leo called for more attention, resources and efforts in the fields of drug demand reduction.

The results of this regional workshop will be used, inter alia, to develop the drug demand reduction component of a regional programme of technical assistance that UNODC and regional countries aim to launch by the end of 2010.