Islamic Republic of Iran

Building cooperation within addiction sciences: The 9th International Addiction Science Congress in Tehran.

(from the left) Dr. Hayatullah Jawad, Dr. Parviz Afshar, Dr. Khalid Mufti, Dr. Gilberto Gerra, and Dr. Nadeem Rehman


The '9 th Annual International Congress on Addiction Science' was held on 9-11 September at the Razi Convention Center in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran. The conference was organized by the Iran University of Medical Sciences, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences, and the Ministry of Health and Medical Education, with sponsors including the UNODC, Iran Drug Control Headquarters (DCHQ), UNICEF, amongst others. Speakers were drawn from domestic universities in addition to international ones, such as Professor Richard Schottenfeld from Yale University School of Medicine, and Professor Fabrizio Faggiano from University of Piemonte Orientale - Novara. Delegates attending the congress were mostly medical professionals concerned with drug prevention and treatment, such as Psychiatrists, General Practitioners, and Epidemiologists.

The congress sought to bring scientists and practitioners from these fields together in a coordinated effort to disseminate the latest developments within addiction sciences, ranging from the involvement of genes to the impact of communities on substance use disorders (SUDs). Among them, Dr. Gilberto Gerra, Chief of Drug Prevention and Health Branch at the UNODC in Vienna, showed the important relationship between genes and the environment in developing SUDs. At the opening ceremony, Dr. Gerra urged the delegates and participating organisations to ensure that evidence-based approaches are adopted "to help the people with no voice who are affected by the terrible disease that is addiction". This is in line with UNODC's global strategy of preventing and treating drug abuse through rigorous scientific expertise: which is of highest importance in countries such as Iran where more than 1,325,000 individuals suffer from drug dependency.


Professor Schottenfeld lecture on Training Medical Students in Addiction.


Importantly, a session on reforming the medical curricula took place at the congress, reviewing the existing drug treatment and rehabilitation curricula for undergraduate medical students in the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, countries covered under the Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries, The session was chaired by Dr. Nadeem Rehman, Sub-Programme 3 Coordinator of the UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries, and sought to update the drug treatment and rehabilitation curricula based on best-case-practices and experiences of the concerned countries. Dr. Parviz Afshar, Drug Demand Reduction Deputy at the DCHQ, described the evolution of the medical curriculum to respond to the threat posed by drug use in Iran; which currently weighs in among the top 5 issues in the country with regards to disease burden and related mortality. This session was supported by the generous contribution of the European Union.


Dr. Hayatullah Jawad, Head of the Education Development Centre in Kabul Medical University, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and Dr. Khalid Mufti, Chief Executive at Ibadat Hospital in Peshawar, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, delivered synopses of the current situation of drug demand in their respective countries, urging for closer regional cooperation on the training of medical professionals within the field of addiction sciences. Dr. Mufti also called for drawing best-case-practices from Iran's Psychiatric Association (one of the biggest in South-East Asia) to strengthen the medical infrastructure in Afghanistan and Pakistan, for instance through sending local practitioners to Iran for training. Professor Richard Schottenfeld from Yale University School of Medicine described his own experiences in developing knowledge sharing spaces cutting across medical fields at Yale University, highlighting the importance of disseminating and accruing practical experience of addiction studies not only in psychiatry, but also in related fields. Ultimately, it was decided that there should be a concerted effort to review the medical curricula in the three countries. Recommendations on improving the curricula will be proposed at future multilateral follow-ups.