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Narcotic Drug Use Should Be Treated As Illness, U.N. Drug Office Director Says

“Prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration and health have to be recognized as key elements in our strategy” to fight drug demand, supply and trafficking, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Yuri Fedotov said Monday at the opening session of the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, United Press International reports. Fedotov added, “Overall, our work on the treatment side must be considered as part of the normal clinical work undertaken when responding to any other disease in the health system,” according to UPI (3/12). “He called on countries to recognize that drug dependence, which claims some 250,000 lives annually, is an illness,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/12).

Last week, “12 United Nations entities … issued a joint statement [.pdf] calling for the closure of compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centers,” a UNAIDS feature story reports. “The existence of such centers — which have been operating in many countries for the last 20 years — raises human rights issues and threatens the health of detainees, including through increased vulnerability to HIV and tuberculosis (TB) infection,” UNAIDS writes, adding, “The joint statement will enable coordinated and concerted efforts by the U.N. system at country, regional and global levels to support governments to close compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centers and replace them with voluntary, rights-based, evidence-informed programs in the community” (3/8). In addition, a new report (.pdf) by Harm Reduction International (HRI) shows that more than one quarter of women incarcerated in European and Central Asian prisons are imprisoned because of non-violent drug offenses, which “routinely ruins lives, breaks families apart and puts children at serious risk,” according to HRI Deputy Executive Director Damon Barrett, an HRI press release states (3/12).