Treatment, care and rehabilitation


Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease is characterized by a respiratory infection with symptoms ranging from mild common cold/flu-like to more serious health problems. The symptoms usually include fever, coughing, sore throat and shortness of breath. Muscle pain and tiredness have also been described. 

Although the COVID-19 disease is usually mild and most people recover quickly, it can be very serious for certain groups of people, including the elderly and people with stressed immune systems or underlying conditions.

Ensuring continued access to health care during a pandemic, including services for people who use drugs and treatment of drug use disorders, are key not only to protect the health of populations, but also key to security and stability.

People with disorders associated with drug use are often accompanied by health conditions such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and/or C, tuberculosis, pulmonary or cardiovascular diseases, stroke, cancer and injuries and trauma, among others. In addition, many may have their immune system compromised and, once stigmatized, these people have limited access to basic resources. For all these reasons, this is one of the groups at greatest risk of developing COVID-19.

Therefore, it is important to ensure the continuity of adequate access to health and social services for people who use drugs and have drug use disorders, as described in the International Standard for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders (UNODC/WHO, 2020), as well as psychosocial treatment and pharmacological treatment in diverse contexts. 

UNODC actions go hand in hand with commitments not to leave anyone behind in Agenda 2030. It is therefore suggested that Member States and treatment, care and rehabilitation systems and services develop plans to ensure this:

  • Address continued access to the services
  • Address the safety of the staff and the patients at the services
  • Make sure the premises of the services are clean and hygienic
  • Provide people with information on and means to protect themselves at every possible occasion
  • Continuity of low-threshold services
  • Continuity of pharmacological therapy
  • Continuity of psycho-social therapies
  • Support homeless people, including people with drug use disorders

Under no condition should a person be denied access to health care based on the fact that he/she use drugs!

For more detailed information, access the whole paper here