PAHO/WHO and UNODC express concern about actions regarding drug use in São Paulo


May 29, 2017 - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) are concerned about the possibility of compulsory internment - and in mass - of Drug users in São Paulo. The drug problem in the world is a critical issue for public health. Therefore, public policies should focus on drugs at all levels of promotion, prevention, and treatment; from primary care to specialized services. Such policies should be guided by principles such as the guarantee of human rights, access to the most qualified treatment methods and be supported by scientific evidence .

In this regard, PAHO/WHO and UNODC emphasize guidelines contained in the 2016 resolution of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs 1   , adopted by consensus by the UN Member Countries. Some recommendations point to the following directions: (1) the approach should be multilateral, with an integrated, balanced, comprehensive and evidence-based approach, through appropriate attention to people and communities for health protection; (2) in the field of health, it is decisive that any action is done voluntarily and consented by the person who needs it, in order to prevent stigmatization and social exclusion; (3) respect, protect and promote all human rights, fundamental freedoms and the inherent dignity of all persons. UNODC reiterates its position expressed in 2013 2  that hospitalization without consent is an exception and can only be used in cases of extreme emergency and as the last strategy.

The World Health Organization recommends, in a document discussed this week during the 70th World Health Assembly  3 , that actions that adequately address the public health continuum should be implemented in an intersectoral and coordinated way - from primary care to community-based services, approaches made on the streets to harm reduction strategies - based on principles of equity, social justice and human rights, prioritizing the most vulnerable populations and guided by social and health determinants, the evidence-based interventions and the approaches centered on people. PAHO and UNODC reaffirm the information contained in the Joint Communiqué on Detention and Compulsory Treatment Centres issued in 2012 4 .A recent survey of crack users in Brazil  5   found that 77% of users voluntarily wish to be treated and access-based strategies Health and other needs, such as work, housing, and social rights, have been much more efficient in reducing drug use and its effects.

In this line, a systematic review of the efficacy of compulsory treatments  6   for drug use concluded that there is no evidence of improvements in compulsory treatments and, on the other hand, identified studies suggesting the risk of increased damage. Given potential human rights violations by these approaches, the authors recommend that voluntary treatment should be prioritized in policies aimed at the health care of people who have problems related to drug use. Finally, UNODC and PAHO/WHO express their willingness to support the Brazilian State, at its most various levels, in adopting measures that may contribute to the best approach to this issue.

We thank our UN Online Volunteer, Juliana Nogueira, for her contribution to the translation of this article. Juliana is an online volunteer mobilised through". 

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