Inclusion, not exclusion: UNODC addresses stigma around substance use

Inclusion, not exclusion: UNODC addresses stigma around substance use Vienna (Austria), 20 January 2020 - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), with the support of the Government of Canada, convened 50 experts from 25 countries and 5 international organisations from 14 to 16 January to contribute their expertise and experience to an initiative on how to address stigma around substance use.

Stigma is an enormous challenge in the field of psychoactive substances, including controlled substances, strongly and negatively affecting people with substance use disorders, their families and friends, as well as the services that they are offered and seek.

Research shows that stigma around substance use is much higher than that around mental health disorders and that it amplifies the negative health and social effects of substance use, including the burden of the disease and mortality.

In recognition of this situation, the Government of Canada, together with Uruguay and Bolivia, tabled a resolution at the 61st session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which was endorsed with the co-sponsorship of 19 other Member States: 61/11 "Promoting non-stigmatizing attitudes to ensure the availability of, access to and delivery of health, care and social services for drug users". As a follow-up to the Resolution, UNODC, with the support of the Government of Canada, launched an initiative on how to address stigma around substance use.

Participants at the three-day event in Vienna included researchers, service providers, and people with lived experiences and representatives from UNODC and WHO, the Colombo Plan, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe.

They discussed global good practice around, for example, educating health professionals and other service providers on stigma, as well as on a careful and appropriate understanding of the scientific evidence; changing language around substance use and substance use disorders; supporting the meaningful participation of people with lived and living experiences in the development of policies and services; and advocacy with a particular emphasis on contact.

The results of the discussion will inform the development of a Handbook summarizing global best practice for the consideration of policy makers worldwide.

Further Information

UNODC on drug prevention, treatment, care and rehabilitation

UNODC on HIV and AIDS