UNODC South Asia Representative's address at the launch of Workshop on Drug Dependence Treatment


New Delhi, India/November 20, 2017: A very good morning to all of you. On behalf of UNODC, I welcome you to this very special workshop.

I am glad to see our friends from Afghanistan and look forward to your active participation in the discussions. Getting to know your grassroots' experiences in combating drug use in Afghanistan will be very useful. I also thank our specialist colleagues from UNODC, who have travelled from Vienna to conduct the trainings. It is really wonderful to see such a diverse and rich international representation of practitioners, service providers and experts, and I am positive this will emerge as a very interesting platform for exchange of knowledge and ideas.

As you are aware, Substance and Drug Use Disorders pose serious public health, developmental and security challenges for the world and South Asia. These disorders not only create health problems, but are also factors for poverty, violence, criminal behaviour, and social exclusion.

Much of UNODC's work is focused on addressing the human dimension of this multifaceted challenge: protecting the health of the men, women and children affected by drug use and dependence, and all of the consequences for society that illicit drugs can have.  This means looking beyond the statistics and seeing not "the addict", not "the drug user", not "the patient," but the human being who needs our help.

According to the 2017 World Drug Report, over 29.5 million people who use drugs are estimated to suffer from drug use disorders, and of these, 12 million are people who inject drugs (PWID). The magnitude of the suffering caused by drug use is underlined by the estimated 28 million years of "healthy" life lost worldwide as a result of premature death and disability caused by drug use.

Overdose-related deaths represent approximately one-third to a half of all drug-related deaths, which in most cases are attributable to opioids. Yet, only one in six problem drug users have access to drug dependence treatment services - thus pointing to the large gap in service provision that still remains to be closed.                                                                            

Global public health approaches in drug dependence treatment and care have been the springboard of existing good practices and remain the most fertile ground for the development of innovative and effective responses. Research studies indicate that for every $US 1 invested in evidence-based treatment, up to $US 6 are saved in terms of costs for health, security and welfare.

Clearly, the best results are achieved only when a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach, which includes diversified pharmacological and psychosocial interventions, is made available to the patient.

This directly translates into the core area of work of the UNODC Drug Dependence Treatment and Rehabilitation unit, which is: the provision of technical assistance to Member States in order to create humane, low-cost, effective and evidence-based drug treatment services. UNODC also puts both health and human rights at the center stage of countering the world drug problem.

UNODC has trained more than 11,000 drug treatment service providers from all disciplines in more than 40 countries using a training cascade approach. This knowledge sharing methodology has proven to be effectives in creating a self-sustainable mechanism for dissemination of evidence based interventions, leading to improved quality of drug treatment services. This in turn has been translated into health benefits and improvement of the well-being and social integration for people affected by drug use disorders through increased access to quality drug dependence treatment and care services.

To this end, UNODC has developed a comprehensive set of training resources and tools, aimed at strengthening the capacity of Member States, in cooperation with other partners. These include a variety of training curricula, handbooks and tools, which provide guidance to Governments, organizations and individuals active in the field of drug dependence treatment and care.

The UNODC Treatnet Training Package is a unique tool to increase the level of knowledge and skills of professionals working in the field of substance use disorders. TREATNET promotes diversified and accessible quality drug dependence treatment and care services, including HIV/AIDS prevention and care. This initiative was launched in 2005 with 20 treatment centres worldwide, and in its current phase is being implemented in 27 countries in five regions. TREATNET is currently active around the world with drug dependence treatment service improvement projects in Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East, South America and South-East Asia.

This training package covers a wide range of topics and aims to remove barriers to low-cost, effective and evidence-based drug treatment services in developing countries by helping create the human resource capacity required to provide diversified, effective and quality drug dependence treatment and rehabilitation services.

Current Treatnet Training Packages include Volume A: Screening, Assessment, and Treatment Planning, Volume B: Elements of Psychosocial Treatment, Volume C: Addiction Medications and Special Populations, and Volume D: Administrative Toolkit (Training for Clinical Managers) and Reducing the Harm of Drug Use and HIV Risk. Training Package for the treatment of women with drug use disorders are under development. 

The aim of this Training of Trainers workshop is to develop a basis for the implementation of a training cascade at the level of beneficiary countries, and in so doing, increasing the capacity of service providers to deliver science and human rights based interventions for the benefit of people affected by drug use disorders.

Following the learnings from this workshop, we hope you will be actively promoting and sharing the expertise with government agencies, academic institutions and drug dependence treatment service providers in your country as well.

To conclude, I want to reassert that we must act together and act urgently to stop the scourge of drug use in our countries. Millions of youth and children are being affected by drugs and it is an imperative to collectively address this issue both from the health perspective as well as the law enforcement front. Let's all join hands and work towards a more secure future for our youth and our people!