UNODC technical consultation on family therapy for adolescents with drug use disorders

UNODC, WHO work together to prevent drug use among youth by strengthening family skills. Photo: UNODC14 June 2018 - Adolescence is a critical window of vulnerability for the onset of substance use disorders, and the family environment can be both a protective and a risk factor. Communities and families affected by drug use disorders all around the world are facing grave challenges as they often find themselves without appropriate support and without access to evidence-based drug use disorder treatment.

In this context, UNODC convened a technical consultation on "Elements of family-based treatments for adolescents with drug use disorders: creating societies resilient to drugs and crime", in early June in Vienna.

The meeting, organized in close coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), brought together 25 experts from 13 countries. The experts aimed to identify key elements of effective approaches to the treatment of adolescents with drug use disorders and to provide guidance for the development of a UN training package on family therapy (UNFT).

Family therapy and family-based interventions have been recommended in the International Standards for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders developed by UNODC and WHO. It considers the family context - as well as the broader context - in the treatment of adolescents with drug use disorders.

Family therapy provides a safe framework for families in which change processes can take place that have a positive impact on the substance use of one family member and at the same time on the overall family and even the systems to which the family belongs.

"Strengthening prevention and treatment for people with substance use disorders is an essential demand reduction strategy of significant public health importance, and has been specifically set as target 3.5 of Goal 3, under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," said Giovanna Campello, Chief of UNODC's Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, in her opening remarks.

"Given the preventive potential family therapy has, we will also explore its impact on drug use disorder treatment outcomes for adolescents, and pay attention to other areas such as the prevention of crime or violence as well," she added.

The training package is being developed as part of UNODC's Treatnet initiative and is to initially be piloted in three regions in Asia, and will further be tailored to meet the needs and cultural contexts of the countries participating in the programme.

Supported by the Government of Japan, the initiative brings special attention to children and adolescents. It is also very timely, as the motto of this year's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on 26 June is "#ListenFirst - Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe."

Further Information:

UNODC/WHO's International Standards for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders

UNODC's Treatnet initiative

2018 World Drug Day