Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director


Remarks at CND 62 High-Level Side Event

"A health-centred approach to drug dependence, a multi-factorial health disorder"

14 March 2019


Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to express my gratitude to WHO, INCB and UNAIDS for coming together today with UNODC around the essential topic of health-centred approaches to drug use and drug dependence in addressing the world drug problem.

Many thanks to Norway for their leadership in organizing this event, and to the US, Italy, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Civil Society Task Force for their involvement.

The outcome document of the UN General Assembly Special Session recognizes drug dependence as a complex, multifactorial health disorder - with causes and consequences that can be prevented and treated.

We face daunting challenges in doing so.

Globally, some two hundred and seventy-five million people aged fifteen to sixty-four used drugs at least once in the previous year. More than thirty million people suffer from drug use disorders, with serious impacts for the individuals involved, their families, communities and society at large.

Some 10.6 million people inject drugs. Out of this number, 1.4 million people are living with HIV and just over five million are living with hepatitis C.

Drug use comes with a high burden of disease and mortality. Annually, some half a million people die as a result of drug use. About forty per cent of those deaths are directly associated with drug use disorders, particularly opioid overdoses, while the rest are due to indirect consequences of drug use, including hepatitis and HIV. 

At the same time, evidence- and rights-based services and support to treat drug dependence and related challenges posed by HIV and other infectious diseases, are not reaching all people who need them.

This is particularly true in low- and middle-income countries.

The great potential of evidence-based prevention approaches to promote healthy lifestyles and avert risky behaviours remains underleveraged.

Inequalities in terms of access to health care and social care strongly affect women, youth and the incarcerated.

Alternatives to punishment, in drug-related cases of a minor nature, including possession for personal use, are in line with the drug control conventions, and much more needs to be done to support countries in making use of these options.

In response to these continuing challenges, UNODC has developed a strong, long-standing collaboration with WHO and other organizations represented here, dedicated to supporting public health responses to drugs.

We are proud to be marking the tenth anniversary of the common UNODC-WHO programme for drug dependence treatment and care.

It stands as a valuable example of concrete inter-agency cooperation. Its fundamental principle: individuals with drug use disorders should receive nothing less than what is expected for any other chronic health disorder.

Our joint work on the International Standards for Treatment of Drug Use Disorders has just culminated in a successful round of field tests.

Last year we jointly published the International Standards on Drug Use Prevention.

Both our organizations are co-sponsors of UNAIDS and have developed a comprehensive package of interventions for HIV prevention and treatment among people who inject drugs.

UNODC has also joined forces with WHO and civil society partners to help improve access to controlled drugs for medical purposes.

More than eighty per cent of the people in need of such essential medicines, particularly for palliative care, lack such access.

I would also like to recognize the important leadership of INCB in promoting access and availability of controlled drugs for medical purposes, while preventing diversion and misuse, as a fundamental aim of the drug control conventions.

At last year's CND session, President Sumyai, Dr. Tedros and I released a joint statement on the common goals of our three organizations.

I am very pleased that we have been able to take this cooperation forward in our mandated areas, and further strengthen the synergies between UNODC, INCB and WHO.

Ladies and gentlemen,

On last year's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Secretary-General António Guterres issued the following call: "Building on agreed international frameworks and using the UNGASS consensus as our guide, I urge countries to advance prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration services".

We have already made strides in promoting balanced approaches to drug demand and supply.

UNODC is committed to continue supporting you in building a public health response to the world drug problem, based on empathy, human rights and science.

All of us - international organizations, civil society, Member States - stand together to protect the new generations, particularly the most vulnerable, from drugs and their deadly consequences.

Thank you.