World Drug Report 2020

Around 269 million people used drugs worldwide in 2018, which is 30 per cent more than in 2009, while over 35 million people suffer from drug use disorders, according to the latest World Drug Report, released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The Report also analyses the impact of COVID-19 on the drug markets, and while its effects are not yet fully known, border and other restrictions linked to the pandemic have already caused shortages of drugs on the street, leading to increased prices and reduced purity.

The Report provides a wealth of information and analysis to support the international community in implementing operational recommendations on a number of commitments made by Member States, including the recommendations contained in the outcome document of the special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem, held in 2016.

To read and download the report, follow this link>>>

COVID-19 and drug markets

UNODC press release

Measures implemented by governments to curb the COVID-19 pandemic have led to drug trafficking routes by air being disrupted, along with drastic reduction or increased interdiction in trafficking routes over land. Some drug supply chains have been interrupted and traffickers are looking for alternative routes, including maritime routes, depending on the types of drugs smuggled. These are some of the findings from a report on drug market trends during COVID-19, launched on 7 May by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Synthetic drugs, such as methamphetamine tend to be trafficked across continents by air more than other types of drugs. Restrictions on air travel are, therefore, likely to have a particularly drastic effect on this illegal cargo. The bulk of cocaine is trafficked by sea and large cargos have continued to be detected in European ports during the pandemic.

So far, heroin has mostly been trafficked by land. But due to the pandemic, maritime routes seem to be increasingly used now to traffic heroin as shown by seizures of opiates in the Indian Ocean.

Trafficking in cannabis, however, may not be affected in the same way as that of heroin or cocaine, given that its production often takes place near consumer markets and traffickers are thus less reliant on long, transregional shipments of large quantities of the drug.

 

Drug consumption trends

Several countries have reported drug shortages at the retail level. This can lead to an overall decrease in consumption, but mainly of drugs mostly consumed in recreational settings.

In the case of heroin, however, a shortage in supply can lead to the consumption of harmful, domestically produced substances – heroin shortages have been reported by countries in Europe, South West Asia and North America and some countries in Europe have warned that heroin users may even switch to fentanyl and its derivatives.

An increase in the use of pharmaceutical products such as benzodiazepines has also been reported, already doubling their price in certain areas. Another harmful pattern resulting from drug shortages is the increase in injecting drug use and the sharing of injecting equipment. All of which carry the risk of spreading diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and COVID-19 itself. The risk of drug overdose may also increase among those injecting drugs and who are infected with COVID-19.

 

Trends in drug production

Restrictions resulting from lockdown could hinder the production of opiates with the key months of harvest in Afghanistan being March to June. Due to COVID-19 labour force might not be able or willing to travel to areas where opium poppy is grown in the country, which could affect this year’s harvest.

Cocaine production also appears to be impeded in Colombia, as producers are suffering from a shortage of gasoline. While in Bolivia, COVID-19 is limiting the ability of state authorities to control coca bush cultivation, which could lead to an increase in coca production. In Peru, however, a drop in the price of cocaine suggests a reduction in trafficking opportunities. This may discourage coca bush cultivation in the short-term, although the looming economic crisis may lead more farmers to take up coca cultivation in all the major cocaine producing countries.

A decline in international trade in the current pandemic could also lead to shortages in the supply of precursors, vital for the manufacture of heroin as well as for synthetic drugs. A limited supply in Mexico, for example seems to have disrupted the manufacture of methamphetamine and fentanyl, while in Lebanon and Syria it is affecting the production of captagon. Czechia on the other hand expects a shortage of metamphetamine for the same reasons.

In the long-run, the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to lead to a lasting and profound transformation of the drug markets, which can be fully understood only after more research is done. The economic difficulties caused by COVID-19 may affect people who are already in position of socioeconomic disadvantage harder than others.

The COVID-19 and drug markets Report is available online here >>>

Conference on protection of vulnerable populations in South East Europe

Spread of the coronavirus and illness officially known as COVID-19 around the world, in Europe and in the region of South East Europe has a devastating effect on general population as well as on people who use drugs and other connected vulnerable populations (homeless people, sex workers, LGBTI, MSM, people living with HIV and many others).

DPNSEE reacted early on the information about possible outbreak of the coronavirus in Europe sending a Letter to member organisations inviting them to prepare for the coronavirus outbreak with brief instructions, publishing the Public appeal to protect vulnerable groups from coronavirus COVID-19, sharing and translating instructions and advice on coronavirus and keeping contacts with our member organisations and international partners. We regularly update news from South East Europe – they are available at the News section of our website.

We held conference calls with our member organisations by countries from South East Europe last weeks. We heard a lot of good stories about their work and ideas to share.

Analysing the situation and discussing potential developments during and after the outbreak, the DPNSEE Board decided to hold the on-line Conference on protection of vulnerable populations in South East Europe. The Conference will be held with support of the Service for Combatting Drug Abuse at the Croatian Institute for Public Health and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – UNODC Programme Office in Serbia.

The aim of the Conference is to contribute to ensuring the sustainability of services for key populations during and after the coronavirus epidemic. As stated in the UNODC document Suggestions about treatment, care and rehabilitation of people with drug use disorder in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic “it is important to ensure the continuity of adequate access to health and social services for people who use drugs and with drug use disorders and provide the continuum of care required as described in the International Standards for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders (UNODC/WHO, 2020) to the best extent possible also in times of crisis”.

Besides our members and other civil society organisations from the region and wider, we invite to the Conference national drug agencies and health institutions, international organisations partners and donors.

The Conference will be held via Zoom at the following link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86072202401 on Thursday 23 April 2020 starting at 14:00 CET (15:00 EEST). The conference would last for a maximum of two hours.

The Agenda will include two items:

  1. Overview of situation with coronavirus among vulnerable populations in South East Europe.
  2. Proposed actions to ensure sustainability of services for key populations during and after the coronavirus epidemic.

The background documents for the Conference we plan to prepare and post here in the next few days include:

  • Overview of the situation with coronavirus COVID-19 in SEE with two annexes (available here>>> with both annexes or here>>> as a separate document):
  • Annex 1 – Information received from countries of South East Europe during conference calls (available here>>>)
  • Annex 2 – DPNSEE activities during the coronavirus outbreak (available here>>>)
  • Draft list of actions and measures to ensure sustainability of services for key populations during and after the coronavirus epidemic (in progress).

In preparations for the Conference, we shall also use and refer to the documents which are also produced and promoted internationally, including those from UNODC, UNAIDS, EMCDDA and other national and international intergovernmental and civil society organisations.

We sincerely hope that you shall join us in this effort to make sure that a truly inclusive universal health coverage grounded on rights-based laws, policies and procedures is achieved by prioritizing and protecting vulnerable groups.

 

New COVID-19 documents translated into Serbian

Timok Youth Centre from Serbia and DPNSEE continue translating and publishing UNODC documents in Serbian. Now this includes three infographics on COVID-19 – HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for people who use drugs:

Rome Consensus for Humanitarian Drug Policy

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Partnership on Substance Abuse, co-sponsored by the Government of Italy, UNODC, WHO, in cooperation with the Levenson Foundation, the C4 Recovery Foundation, PTACC and the Villa Maraini Foundation, has launched the Manifesto “Rome Consensus 2.0 towards a humanitarian drug policy” at the 63a CND at UNODC in Vienna.

The Manifesto wants to promote universal access to treatment and care, as well as alternative measures to criminal justice for people who use drugs. The aim is to address the drug problems at all levels by giving emphasis to a humane attitude in support of people with drug disorders. The primary objective of humanitarian aid and approach is to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity.

The Rome Consensus 2.0 is available following this link>>>

To sign the Rome Consensus 2.0 please visit following link>>>

Your Input needed!

Displaced populations may be vulnerable to substance use disorders for a variety of reasons. These include pre- or post-migration stress and trauma, including loss of homes and livelihoods, violence, torture, mental health disorders and family separation.

The UNODC Prevention Treatment and Rehabilitation Section (PTRS) in coordination with WHO and UNHCR is planning a consultation process to develop a technical guidance tool to address substance use and substance use disorders, as well as associated health and social consequences in Relief and Humanitarian Settings and to increase access to substance use disorder treatment also in Humanitarian Settings. An expert group meeting is tentatively scheduled for the third quarter of 2020.

As part of the consultation process civil society organisations are invited to provide relevant information about treatment and care for displaced populations. In particular by:

  • Sharing national experiences, studies and good practices on addressing substance use disorders and providing treatment and care for people with substance use disorders in humanitarian settings and/or for displaced populations;
  • Informing about the current use of technical tools, guidelines, protocols or else to guide the work on treatment and care for people with substance use disorders in humanitarian settings and among displaced populations;
  • Indicating to UNODC which kind of technical guidance tool would be most relevant, needed and applicable in order to provide improved services for people with substance use disorders in humanitarian settings or for displaced populations with substance use disorders;
  • Describing existing mechanisms for interaction and coordination at the national/regional level, including joint- or inter-ministerial entities, civil society coordination mechanisms or else which bring together health, humanitarian and other sectors that could play a key role in a later implementation of the technical guidance tool to be developed by UNODC, in coordination with WHO and UNHCR, to address substance use disorders as well as associated health and social consequences in Relief and Humanitarian Settings;
  • Providing the full name and complete contact details of a focal point, to facilitate future communication and exchange about the information provided.

The information collected will be used to understand the use and barriers for application of currently available tools, identify needs, gather information on what kind of technical tool could be practically applicable and increase access to treatment and care of substance use disorders in humanitarian settings.

Relevant input should be sent as soon as possible but no later than 15 May 2020, by sending it to Ms. Anja Busse (anja.busse@un.org), Mr. Wataru Kashino (wataru.kashino@un.org) and info@vngoc.org.

To get more information, follow this link>>>.

 

CND Recap

The 63rd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was held from 2 to 6 March 2020 in Vienna, Austria. The CND is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and is the central drug policy-making body within the United Nations system. It monitors the world drug situation, develops strategies on international drug control and recommends measures to address the world drug problem.

Delegations from Member States, young people, scientists, civil society representatives (some 370 of us), and representatives from 17 international and regional organizations – nearly 1.500 people from more than 130 countries – met like every year in March to discuss the complexities and contexts of the world drug problem and to find joint solutions.

As expected, the meeting started with an information on the coronavirus outbreak. Austrian Health Authorities have mandatory reporting cases – no travel restrictions currently, 1.826 tests in Austria, 15 confirmed.

New UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly was presented and actively participated in the meeting.

Croatia spoke on behalf of EU as it holds EU presidency in the first half of the year. Our colleagues from their Office for combating drugs were very active in preparations and hold a lot of meetings and events during the event.

At plenary, country representatives spoke about issues of their interest and achievements they made while at the Committee of the Whole (comprised of representatives of CND member countries) texts of the resolutions were discussed and agreed.

The UNODC Executive Director, in her closing speech, presented the results of the meeting as:

  • Pledge to expand opportunities for the meaningful participation of youth in drug prevention
  • Call for increased support of comprehensive alternative development programmes
  • Recognition that education and training are required to ensure access to and the availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes
  • Emphasis on the importance of partnerships with the private sector to secure an affordable and safe supply of controlled substances for licit purposes
  • Adoption of the revised Annual Report Questionnaire to support the international community to improve the evidence base and ensure that World Drug Report can draw on the best available data possible

CND adopted 5 proposed resolutions:

  • Promoting efforts by member states to counter the world drug problem
  • Promoting efforts by Member States to address and counter the world drug problem, in particular supply reduction-related measures, through effective partnerships with private sector entities
  • Promoting awareness-raising, education and training as part of a comprehensive approach to ensuring access to and the availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes and improving their rational use
  • Promoting the involvement of youth in drug prevention efforts
  • Promoting alternative development as an inclusive and sustainable development-oriented drug control strategy

In the margins of the 63rd Session of the CND, UNODC convened 45 youths and 27 parents and guardians from 33 countries for the Youth Forum 2020 held from 2 to 4 March, to involve them in efforts to address the world drug problem and to strengthen their voices on the global level.

DPNSEE was represented by Ivana Vujović from Juventas and Executive Director Milutin Milošević, In addition, Board member Marios Atzemis (representing EATG), Vlatko Dekov and Bogdan Kolev from HOPS and Ana Gavrilović from ReGeneracija (who participated in the Youth Forum 2020), were present at the CND 2020.

During the event, we had a lot of small informal and some formal meetings including those with Alexis Goodeel, Director of EMCDDA, Dr Christos Koumitsidis, Greek Drug Coordinator, State secretary in the Ministry of Health of Croatia Tomislav Dulibić and several members of their Office for combating drugs, national drug coordinators from Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, Katrin Prins-Schiffer, Coordinator of Correlation, representatives of the Trimbos Institute, representatives of IDPC, the European Citizens’ Initiative to change regulation on cannabis among others.

In a consultative meeting with Jamie Bridge from IDPC, we explained critical situation with harm reduction in South East Europe and expressed disappointment that none of the projects from the region was supported by the Radian Fund. Jamie informed us that there may be a kind of a donor meeting around the World AIDS Conference this July in San Francisco and Auckland where we may jointly bring the case to the agenda and ask for more attention to the problem.

IDPC invited organisations active in the “Support. Don’t Punish” campaign for a meeting to discuss developments and the upcoming 2020 Global Day of Action. The International day of action will be celebrated for the eight time. The call for expression of interest will be issued on 16 March and opened for a month. The process will be the same as recent year(s).

Some general observations

  • Every year presence of governments increases, especially those with restrictive approach to drugs. And, strange enough, they organise side events on critical issues, probably trying to present and protect their views.
  • Governments use CND to promote their successes. There is no confirmation that all of them they are real. On contrary, we observed cases of false achievements.
  • More presence from SEE
  • Less and less community members
  • A lot of attention was given to human rights, following publishing of the Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy by the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy, UNAIDS, WHO and UNDP in 2019.
  • Strong presence and a lot of activities of Croatia, which holds EU presidency in the first half of 2020.
  • Discussion and adoption of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation that would remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention while still keeping it in Schedule I should have been at the agenda (postponed from 2019), but this will not happen in 2020. This is the second time the CND has refused to vote on the recommendations, which the WHO first presented in January 2019.
  • Some countries have decided to not send their delegates to avoid contract coronavirus and many CSOs have either done the same.

Daily overviews from the CND are available at the DPNSEE webpage:

 

A day for side events

While plenary session was open for governmental speeches and the Committee of Whole worked on texts of resolutions, the second day of the CND 2020 was for civil society organisations mainly dedicated to side events.

Side events

Young people use drugs – Bridging the gap between Human Rights and Key Affected Populations

Organized by Students for Sensible Drug Policy

International guidelines on human rights and drug policy, produced by UNODC, have a just a few paragraphs on children who have right to protection from drugs and women who use drugs which human rights should be protected, but don’t have reference on young people who use drugs.

The Barcelona declaration (which “declares that the War On Drugs is a war on Womxn Who Use Drugs”), Par4digma coalition of youth lead organisations from across the world transforming drug policy and Youth and Incarceration/Forced Treatment (rehabilitation) in Nigeria, where this method is employed to patients that are treated as “harmful”, were presented. Presenters also called that the sanctions against drug use should be based on the economic situation of the user.

Improving outreach and multidisciplinary approach towards people who use drugs and people in recovery in Western Balkan countries

Organized by Serbia, and Association Izlazak, Preporod/Rebirth, Proslavi Oporavak/Celebrate Recovery and World Federation Against Drugs

Results of the regional project “Choose Recovery” which is a joint cooperation between World Federation Against Drugs and three civil society organisations in the Balkan region: Izlazak, Celebrate Recovery and Preporod, were presented. The three organisation are working within the recovery field and providing support services to active users, individuals in recovery and members of their families, and they are actively involved in shaping drug policies in their countries.

Also, The Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia presented their work, emphasizing partnership with the civil society as one of the successes of their work.

Comprehensive and evidence-based approach in tackling the world drug problem

Organized by Croatia, and European Union and UNODC Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs

The slogan of the Croatian presidency “A strong Europe in a challenging world”

Croatian strongly recommends implementation of all universal conventions dealing with drugs.

After protocolled introductions from the Ambassador of Croatia and Executive Director of UNODC, State secretary in the Ministry of Health Tomislav Dulibić presented Croatian experiences in evidence-based approach to drug problem. He emphasized that Croatia introduced Minimum standards for prevention of addiction in the educational system, implemented a research project “Evaluation of drug treatment in the Republic of Croatia” and performed evaluation of treatment and distribution of substitution therapy.

Alexis Goosdeel underlined that EMCDDA cooperates with Croatia since 2002. They are an excellent experience of serious and comprehensive approach towards accession to EU in the area of drugs. EMCDDA collects data for a purpose, not for statistics.

Victor Sannes, deputy director in the Food, Health Protection and Prevention Directorate presented various projects from The Netherlands.

Gilberto Gerra, UNODC: 60% of countries of the World have health treatment of drug users under ministries of interior or justice!

Homelessness and substance use in city centres: Balanced and evidence-based policies

Organized by Greece, and Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, Pompidou Group/Council of Europe and Santé Mentale et Exclusion Sociale – Europe

Dr Christos Koumitsidis, National Drug Coordinator, Greece: Homelessness in downtown Athens is an important challenge, exacerbated by factors such mental health conditions, substance use problems, the financial crisis and the influx of refugees fleeing war. These issues do not exist in isolation, they intersect and potentiate vulnerability. Homelessness is a common ground.

Katrin Prins-Schiffer, Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network / De Regenboog Groep: We see the same in the harm reduction and addiction sectors; usually homelessness is left behind. Only Finland has decreased homelessness. They have invested a lot in Housing First. All other countries report increases in homelessness. Part of the problem is that the housing market is under a lot of pressure, mostly because of a lack of affordable housing. We have 150,000 rent-controlled dwellings in Amsterdam; but this is not a lot for a city of 1.2 million; and it’s really hard to access these dwellings. In terms of reasons for homelessness, the majority are about impending evictions or end of renting contract, and leaving home after. There is an ‘integrated care system’ whereby local governments are responsible for housing and homeless care. In terms of the system’s main principles, it’s about focusing on the overall needs; not just drug use, homelessness or mental health. It’s a kind of self-sufficiency matrix including finances, housing, relationships, legal problems, community participation. This system is based on the needs on the individual, not on the organisation and its specific focus.

Victor Soto, SMES Europe: Why are people homeless? Policies (housing policies, health policies) and individual situations (mental conditions, traumatic events, etc.). So we need to address both dimensions. Homelessness is not a fixed category, it should be approach through different lines of action.

Pompidou Group: As the operational context was been changing, stakeholders in this field need to be flexible, in line with operational realities. Common guiding principles need to be developed and revised as practice develops. To develop these principles, we need to learn from each other: what works and what doesn’t, find common ground for cooperation and support.

Homelessness and substance use in city centres: Balanced and evidence-based policies

Organized by Greece, and Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, Pompidou Group/Council of Europe and Santé Mentale et Exclusion Sociale – Europe

Dr Christos Koumitsidis, National Drug Coordinator, Greece: Homelessness in downtown Athens is an important challenge, exacerbated by factors such mental health conditions, substance use problems, the financial crisis and the influx of refugees fleeing war. These issues do not exist in isolation, they intersect and potentiate vulnerability. Homelessness is a common ground.

Katrin Prins-Schiffer, Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network / De Regenboog Groep: We see the same in the harm reduction and addiction sectors; usually homelessness is left behind. Only Finland has decreased homelessness. They have invested a lot in Housing First. All other countries report increases in homelessness. Part of the problem is that the housing market is under a lot of pressure, mostly because of a lack of affordable housing. We have 150,000 rent-controlled dwellings in Amsterdam; but this is not a lot for a city of 1.2 million; and it’s really hard to access these dwellings. In terms of reasons for homelessness, the majority are about impending evictions or end of renting contract, and leaving home after. There is an ‘integrated care system’ whereby local governments are responsible for housing and homeless care. In terms of the system’s main principles, it’s about focusing on the overall needs; not just drug use, homelessness or mental health. It’s a kind of self-sufficiency matrix including finances, housing, relationships, legal problems, community participation. This system is based on the needs on the individual, not on the organisation and its specific focus.

Victor Soto, SMES Europe: Why are people homeless? Policies (housing policies, health policies) and individual situations (mental conditions, traumatic events, etc.). So we need to address both dimensions. Homelessness is not a fixed category, it should be approach through different lines of action.

Pompidou Group: As the operational context was been changing, stakeholders in this field need to be flexible, in line with operational realities. Common guiding principles need to be developed and revised as practice develops. To develop these principles, we need to learn from each other: what works and what doesn’t, find common ground for cooperation and support.

First day of the CND 2020

The 63rd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) started on 2 March in Vienna, Austria. The CND is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and is the central drug policy-making body within the United Nations system. It monitors the world drug situation, develops strategies on international drug control and recommends measures to address the world drug problem.

As expected, the meeting started with an information on the coronavirus outbreak. Austrian Health Authorities have mandatory reporting cases – no travel restrictions currently. 1826 tests in Austria, 15 confirmed.

New UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly was presented. UNODC will be launching on 26 June the World Drug Report, hoping spurring dialogue and action.

INCB President: The Board expresses its serious concern with the continued reports of great human rights violations perpetrated in the name of drug control. We call for the immediate end to extrajudicial responses to suspected drug criminality and sue. When drug control measures violate international human rights standards, they also violate the drug control conventions.

Director General of WHO (video link): The increase in the use of psychoactive drugs claims hundreds of thousands of lives every year.

Croatia on behalf of EU: [a number of Balkan states are also aligned with the statement]: The situation is worsening in many parts of the World. The EU and its MS stress the importance of rebalancing the public health and human rights aspects in our responses to the problem. The health consequences of drug use are more severe and wide-spread than we thought; NPS emerging, synthetic opioids are a serious threat as is the non-medical use of painkillers. EU’s recent reports remind us of the severity of the issue but also underscore the complexity of the problem so we need a balanced and comprehensive approach. We are planning to continue to support drug-related commitments to support human rights. We need to develop policies based on evidence-based practice. Civil society contributes valuably to complement our understanding of the world drug situation and also in designing national, regional prevention and harm reduction responses.

Side events

Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the UNODC in the Fight Against the Illicit Drug Threat: Countering Drug Trafficking via Darknet

Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the UNODC: reports show half of dark net activities are associated with drugs. International operations have had some high profile successes in closing dark nets, including Silk Road, Alpha B, and Hanza. However, more spring up in their place.

Vladimir Norov, SCO Secretary-General: According to specialist evaluations, up to 60% of transactions are of narcotic drugs, instead of cash payments crypto currency is used to settle accounts. The process leads to risk of involvement of money laundering, hinders the local authorities attempt to counter narcotic drug trafficking and hinders the stability of young people and states. This business is growing – in 2018 less than 600 million US dollars, 2019 more than 800 million US dollars a year

Drug reform: From a punitive to a supportive approach – The Norwegian proposal

Minister Bent Høie, Norway: Replacing punishment by support and decriminalising drug use was an initiative prior to UNGASS 2016. It came from civil society. In 2018 the government declared we needed to transit away from punishment into assistance, treatment and follow-up. We will conduct drug policy reform to ensure better services to people who use illicit drugs, transferring the responsibility of questions of personal use from justice to health service. A government mandated committee has concluded a report, thorough and interesting, “from punishment to support”, which will be the subject of a public hearing. On the basis of this, the government will submit a proposal to the parliament in spring 2021.

Gilberto Gerra, UNODC: The Conventions, in 1988, clearly says in art 3 that the possession for personal consumption needn’t be punished; there are alternatives. UNGASS2016 reiterates this position. It is important that what has been said by Portugal and Norway; the Conventions allow this and this is not legalisation. The motto of our programme with WHO, ten years ago, nothing less than what is provided for any other chronic disease. No stigma, no discrimination, full access to healthcare.

Devora Kestrel, WHO: We support a move away from a criminal justice approach to a social support approach. To ensure support for people who use drugs. While it is recognised that one size doesn’t fit all, drug policies are moving towards a more balanced and comprehensive approach that highlights public health and development, which is consistent with the original purpose of the Conventions: promoting the health and welfare of humankind.

Mr. Zaved Mahmood, Office of the High Commissioner for Human rights (OHCHR): The criminalization of personal drug use and possession impedes realization of the human right to health. Criminalization of possession and personal use of drugs often results in disproportionate sentencing in addition to hindering persons in need of treatment for drug use from receiving such treatment. Criminalization of drug use and minor drug offenses also aggravates the stigmatization of and discrimination against people who use drugs. Evidence indicate that decriminalization, in tandem with “the provision of a continuum of support, prevention and treatment measures, can result in a decrease in overall drug use and in the drug-induced mortality rate.” Three international drug control conventions afford flexibility to introduce non-criminal responses to the possession of drugs for personal use.

Jamie Bridge, Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs: VNGOC has long held the position that greater attention needs to be given to health and human rights. This means providing evidence-based prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, social reintegration, mental health, harm reduction and recovery services. It means working closely with people who use, or used, drugs to ensure that services meet their needs and are fit for purpose.

Alexis Goodeel, EMCDDA: The idea is that higher penalties deter use. We studied the situation and found no direct link of causality. No clear impact of penalties on use. Recent research on what makes policy work suggest taking into account three levels: System (wording of the law, definition of legislation), Provider (criminal justice and health system), Client (experience and perceptions of the system). Punishment  has nothing to do with a medical or public health approach. Especially for women and minority populations that face bigger barriers to access to health and other services.

Reducing health risks of the use of NPS in EECA region

Organized by Estonia and Moldova and Eurasian Harm Reduction Association, with panellists from UNODC and Eurasian Network of PWUD.

Main message from the event is that users switch from traditional drugs to new substances, while appropriate harm reduction services are missing. The darknet plays a big role in the rise of NPS in the EECA. We need to be proactive about creating and implementing harm reduction initiatives on the dark web.

David Subeliani (ENPWUD): The states in general are not ready to respond to NPS posed problems. People reach for alternatives before the legal system can respond to the new market dynamics. If we squeeze out substances from markets, users will find ways to achieve similar effects with other means. I saw a fast change on the drug scenes in Easter European Member States – cities have moved on from traditional illegal drugs to whatever the market was able to provide. A very aggressive takeover on the market. It increased the risk of infections as the effects are wearing off maybe faster and users might need to administer more often.

Eliza Kurcevic (EHRA): We conducted a research with Swansea University about NPS use in Belarus and Moldova to collect data on use, needed services, etc. Our recommendations: periodic data collections from various stakeholders, research risks and consequences on NPSC consumption, adjust harm reduction programs and implement relevant interventions, adapt existing interventions and ensure effective work together with the affected populations, review repressive policies and redesign it based on evidence.

Health Responses to the Opioid Poisoning Crisis: On-the-Ground Experiences and International Implications

Fatal drug-related overdose is a pressing health crisis in North America. Highly potent synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and analogues, are increasingly present in the unregulated opioid supply and have contributed to unprecedented increases in overdose deaths. Several countries in Europe have also recently experienced a rising loss of lives from accidental opioid overdose. While the expanding opioid poisoning crisis has been a focus of international attention in recent years, discussions have primarily focused on supply reduction, rather than health, interventions.

Asma Fakhri, Coordinator, UNODC Opioid Strategy, presented UNODC strategy pulled together in response to opioid crisis. 5 pillars for balanced framework to respond to opioids.

  1. Early warning and trend analysis: generating evidence in support of effective policy decisions and operational responses
  2. Rational prescribing and access to opioid for medical and scientific use: promoting interagency cooperation in addressing the non-medical use of opioids
  3. Prevention and treatment programmes: strengthening and supporting prevention and treatment programmes related to opioids
  4. International law enforcement operations to disrupt trafficking: enhancing operational activities to prevent the diversion and trafficking of synthetic opioids
  5. Strengthening national and international counternarcotic capacity: raising awareness, sharing best practices and promoting international cooperation

Meetings

CND is an excellent opportunity to meet with those involved in drug policy from all around the World and from all sectors. Certainly, most of the short meetings in corridors were with those from our region, but also we had a good exchange with EMDCCA Director Alexis Goodeel.

Meeting with Dr Christos Koumitsidis, Greek Drug Coordinator

CND was an opportunity to meet with Dr Koumitsidis who, due to the professional obligations he has in the UK was not able to join the Dialogue we had in Belgrade in February.

Three main points characterise situation in Greece: homelessness, immigrants and cooperation between authorities and CSOs

There is no Drug strategy so far. Dr Koumitsidis expects that Government will adopt one this spring and the Action plan in summer.

He was interested to hear about experiences in other countries. We presented him the results of the recent SEE government – civil society dialogue on drugs 2020 and offered to organise the next in Greece.

We also expressed concern about the situation of our member organisations and other civil society organisations from the area of drug policy in Greece.

Stigmatizing Attitudes – Online Consultation

In 2018 the Commission on Narcotic Drugs adopted Resolution 61/11 ‘Promoting non-stigmatizing attitudes to ensure the availability of, access to and delivery of health, care and social services for drug users’. With the support of the Government of Canada, the UNODC Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section (PTRS) is now coordinating an informal consultative process with the aim of developing a handbook of best practices worldwide on this crucial issue.

The first phase of this informal consultative process consists of an online questionnaire, where experts nominated by Member States as well as civil society organisation and other experts that have been identified by UNODC have the opportunity to participate. The aim of the online questionnaire is to collect as much information as possible about stigmatising attitudes and about practices addressing them. Specifically the online consultation seeks to identify:

  • Increasing awareness of the negative effects of stigmatizing attitudes on the availability of, access to and delivery of health, care and social services for persons who engage in the non-medical use of substances; and
  • Promoting non-stigmatizing attitudes in the development and implementation of scientific evidence-based policies related to the availability of, access to and delivery of health, care and social services for persons who engage in the non-medical use of substances.

PTRS is calling on civil society organisations and experts to answers the questionnaire. The information provided will inform the development of a handbook documenting successful experiences which promote non-stigmatizing attitudes, particularly as they relate to non-medical use of substances, that could provide inspiration for innovative policies and practices.

PTRS is asking for the questionnaire to be filled in personal capacity. Individual responses will be kept confidential and reported in aggregated form, unless quoting a document that is available in the public domain anyway. The survey will take 50 to 60 minutes to complete and is in English only.

To participate, please click on the following link>>> and submit your response by 15 September 2019.

If participants have any questions, concerns or difficulties please contact Ms. Elizabeth Mattfeld (elizabeth.mattfeld@un.org), Ms. Heeyoung Park (heeyoung.park@un.org) or Ms. Giovanna Campello (giovanna.campello@un.org) from the UNODC PTRS team.