Drug use prevention, treatment, care and rehabilitation 

As recognized by Member States in the outcome document of the 2016 General Assembly special session on the world drug problem, drug dependence is a complex, multifactorial and chronic health condition that can be prevented and treated. The right to health is relevant for the protection of individuals from the negative effects associated with controlled drugs, the provision of preventive and treatment services, and guaranteeing health care for detainees and prisoners.  Some of the human rights challenges faced by persons with drug use disorders include compulsory treatment, acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and disproportionate prison sentences.

Guided by the International Standards on Drug Use Prevention and the UNODC-WHO International Standards for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders, UNODC aims to reduce vulnerability, prevent drug use and promote the healthy and safe development of children and youth, as well as providing services for the treatment, care and rehabilitation of drug use disorders, including preventing associated health and social consequences such as HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and overdose. UNODC promotes science-based, humane and voluntary services and advocates that all measures must respect the rights of the person and the patient, including in such matters as consent to treatment, privacy and confidentiality, and that all strategies and services for drug treatment meet the same standards of care enjoyed by patients affected by other chronic diseases.



International human rights law entitle every person with the right to health and to access HIV and other healthcare services. Human rights violations in the context of HIV include the criminalisation and enactment of punitive laws which target key populations and people living with HIV, stigma and discrimination in the workplace and in healthcare services, gender inequality, and the denial of access to HIV services.

UNODC supports countries to achieve universal access to comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services for people who use drugs and for people in prisons, in accordance with the UNAIDS Division of Labour for fast tracking HIV/AIDS responses and ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. UNODC works with partners to ensure that HIV interventions are gender-responsive and sustainable by enhancing collaboration among law enforcement, criminal justice and health authorities and the civil society sector, and by identifying and sharing best practices on effective and human rights-based drug policies.


Access to controlled drugs for medical purposes

Guided by the primary interest of protecting the health and welfare of humankind, UNODC works to increase the number of patients receiving appropriate treatment, including pain relief and palliative care, for conditions requiring the use of controlled drugs, while preventing the abuse and diversion of those substances. This dual responsibility of Governments is already recognized in the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol. Despite the universally recognized indispensability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances in tackling pain in medical settings, undertreatment of pain due to the unavailability of controlled medicines represents a fundamental global inequity and an obstacle to the right to health. 

UNODC works with the World Health Organization, the Union for International Cancer Control and the International Narcotics Control Board, among others, in developing recommendations and tools to help policymakers and health-care personnel improve accessibility to and availability of controlled drugs while preventing diversion and abuse. This includes supporting Member States to address major impediments that contribute to the underuse of controlled medicines, such as problems in sourcing from industry, cultural attitudes towards the treatment of pain and mental health disorders, and barriers related to legislation and policies.