Drugs: Treatment Works

Message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Occasion of the International Day
against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
26 June 2004

One of the most damaging misconceptions about drug use is that it is a permanent problem. The truth is that treatment for drug abuse can work, and can restore value and dignity to a person’s life. The theme for this year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, ‘Drugs: Treatment Works’, aims to correct this misconception, and convey the facts about drug abuse treatment, based on the latest and most reliable evidence and research. Millions of people worldwide have been directly affected by drug problems – those who are dependent, as well as their families. Their lives have been disrupted, their health undermined, their education interrupted, their jobs lost, their families broken. People with drug-related problems, and their families and friends, need to know that there is a way out, and that effective help is available in different forms, depending on the needs and situation of each individual.

Today we have a better understanding of the mechanism of dependence. We know that dependence is a chronic and, in many cases, relapsing disorder. We know that, like many other chronic disorders, there are effective interventions that can help those affected to adopt productive lifestyles, avoid and reduce physical and mental health problems, improve family relationships, regain and retain child custody, and find better housing and employment opportunities. We also know that drug-abuse treatment helps communities, by reducing criminality and the risks of transmission of blood-borne infectious diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, and by allowing them to benefit from the contributions of healthier, more productive and better-integrated individuals and families.

Policy makers need to bear in mind that treatment is a cost-effective way to tackle not only the health and social consequences of drug abuse, but also to reduce the associated costs of medical care, social welfare and criminal justice interventions. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has a variety of tools available at www.unodc.org to help clarify the facts about drug-abuse treatment. On this International Day against Drug Abuse, I call on everyone to examine and take into account the strong evidence about drug-abuse treatment and its effectiveness. When treatment works, it benefits us all.

The National Drug Prevention Alliance would concur with the sentiments above – but would add that as well as supporting drug treatment, drug prevention should have a much higher priority. Prevention Works! has been the strap line for our organisation for eleven years. Proof that prevention works can be found in an article from The Weekly – between 1979 and 1992 drug prevention programmes in the USA cut use by 50% – from 25 million to 11 million users – as a result crime, drug related hospital admissions and road deaths also declined.

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