11 March 2009 - UNODC and the World Health Organization (WHO) are launching a Joint Programme on Drug Dependence Treatment and Care today, at a side event to the High-Level Segment of the ongoing UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The programme will lead a global collaborative effort for improving coverage and quality of treatment and care services for drug use disorders in low- and middle-income countries. The cooperation agreement was signed today by UNODC Director, Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, Sandeep Chawla, and WHO Director, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Dr Benedetto Saraceno (see picture).
Drug use and dependence is a public health issue with a serious impact on development and security. An estimated 205 million people in the world use illicit drugs, including some 26 million people with severe drug problems. Drug use disorders are associated with an increased risk of other diseases and health conditions such as hepatitis, tuberculosis, suicide, overdose deaths and cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, outside of sub-Saharan Africa, some 30 per cent of HIV infections are due to injecting drug use.
UNODC and WHO both have constitutional mandates to address issues presented by drug use and dependence. Moreover, taking into account the health, socio-economic and security implications of drug use and related disorders, the two agencies are uniquely positioned to lead this initiative. In particular, it will open a dialogue with Member States and involve a varied group of government ministries and agencies, such as those for health and welfare, as well as the criminal justice system.
The Joint Programme is a milestone in the development of a comprehensive, integrated health-based approach to drug policy that can reduce demand for illicit substances, relieve suffering and decrease drug-related harm to individuals, families, communities and societies.
It sends a strong message to policymakers regarding the need to develop services that address drug use disorders in a pragmatic, science-based and humanitarian way, replacing stigma and discrimination with knowledge, care, recovery opportunities and reintegration.
Brochure about the programme (pdf).