Offering treatments based on scientific evidence is now helping millions of affected individuals to regain control over their lives
By Rui Martins – It’s never too much to reinforce what the UNODC’s – the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Standards for treating drug use disorders recommend: “Drug use disorders are a serious health issue, with a significant burden for individuals affected and their families. There are also significant costs to society including lost productivity, security challenges, crime, increased health care costs, and a myriad of negative social consequences. The social cost of illicit drug use is estimated at up to 1.7% of GDP in some countries (World Drug Report, 2016). Caring for individuals with drug use disorders places a heavy burden on public health systems of Member States and therefore improving treatment systems by making them the best they can be would undoubtedly benefit not only the affected individuals, but also their communities and the whole society.”
As Professor Susana Henriques wrote in her latest article: “according to Spoth et al. (2006), each dollar spent on prevention can save up to ten dollars in social, criminal and health-related costs, thus efficiently relieving some of the burden of addiction”. We all know that treatment does work and that it has been able to help millions of individuals, their families, communities and governments through a comprehensive, health- and human rights-based approach to substance use disorders. In addition, scientific evidence has now shown that longer treatment times result in better outcomes, in terms of treatment evaluation and capability for successful reintegration – such as changing residence to get away from drug use environments, accessing work opportunities, and having more social rights and freedoms.
Treatment does work; it has been able to help millions through a comprehensive, health- and human rights-based approach to substance use disorders.
The internationally benchmarked Portuguese model, coupled with a health-based approach to, and decriminalization of, drug use and abuse, while abiding by the United Nations drug-related treaties has proven its capacity to address the overall drug problem. However, it is a fact that due to the 2009 financial crisis and its major impact on Portugal, some political decisions have had a negative impact on public expenditure in the health and social sectors, putting dependent private/social treatment organizations that work in cooperation with the Ministry of Health in at-risk situations. This exemplifies the need for stronger advocacy activities and calls for a reinforcement of these sectors at the international, regional and national levels (the new Drug Plan of Action 2019-2029 following UNGASS 2016 is being prepared for 62nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, to be held in Vienna, in March, 2019), in order to address the global drug problem more efficiently by engaging a close collaboration with public authorities. This will hopefully bring benefits to everyone, while leaving no one behind.
This issue of the EXIT® magazine brought together 29 renowned experts and practitioners from their respective governments, academia and civil society from 22 countries around Europe, Asia, Africa and North & Latin America. We hope that their insights, their experience and knowledge can contribute to a more enlightening debate on what has been done, the outcomes achieved and what still needs to be done in regard to the consequences of substance use disorders on individuals, families, communities and governments.
Once again, I would like to extend my thanks to all those who contributed to this 2018 issue and I hope that you’ll find its contents informative.
Have a nice reading!