Health is the theme of the 2010 world drug campaign

Photo:UNODC21 April 2010 - Health is the theme of this year's world drug campaign, to be launched on International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking (26 June). The UNODC global campaign "Think health - not drugs" aims to inform the public, particularly young people, about the harmful effects that drugs under international control can have on their health.

Drugs have the power both to improve and to damage health, depending on the type of drugs used, the quantity consumed and the purpose for which they are taken. For example, while morphine can relieve pain, heroin can be highly addictive. Such examples illustrate the need to control drugs.

"We must not only stop the harm caused by drugs, but we must also unleash the capacity of drugs to do good", said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa at the fifty-third session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in March. He reminded participants at the session that health is at the heart of the international drug control system. International treaties recognize that the medical use of narcotic drugs is indispensable in relieving physical pain and require United Nations Member States to control harmful drugs.

Drugs under international control include amphetamine-type stimulants, cannabis, coca/cocaine, hallucinogens, opiates and hypnotic sedatives, all of which have immediate physical effects. While some of the physical effects might sound pleasant, they do not last long. Drugs can also severely hinder psychological and emotional development, particularly in young people. In addition, some users risk addiction.

For those who are dependent on drugs, there is hope. "Treatment and recovery are possible starting from the most problematic conditions", said Gilberto Gerra, Chief of the Drug Prevention and Health Branch of UNODC, at a CND side event advocating for universal access to treatment and care. "Drug dependence is a treatable disease, not condemnation to death or to persistent failure", Mr. Gerra added.

Drug use is preventable. UNODC has developed prevention activities that provide the public, particularly young people, with the information, skills and opportunities they need to make healthy choices, including the choice to avoid using harmful drugs.

The world drug campaign calls on young people, who are twice as likely as adults to take drugs, to protect their health. The first step is to get the facts about drugs. Tools on how to prevent drug use or treat drug dependence are also available for young people, the general public and practitioners.

Parents, teachers and other interested individuals can also join the campaign. There are a number of ways to get involved, including by spreading the word about the campaign and organizing outreach or institutional events to mark International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on 26 June. We can all play a role in promoting health in our communities.

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