Languages and notions may reflect and perpetuate societal stigma

The Scottish Drugs Forum published “Moving beyond ‘people first’ language: a glossary of contested terms in substance use“. This project sought to identify terms that are contested or commonly misunderstood.

The aim has been to explain the nature of contention and, where terms may be misunderstood, account for this. Where appropriate, SDF’s own preferred use of language is given and explained. The drugs field contains a lot of language that is offensive to some people. This is because drug use is a stigmatised activity. People who use drugs; people who have a drug problem; people in treatment and people who may be regarded as being in recovery all suffer stigma as do their families and communities. Self-stigma means that people may use stigmatising terms to describe themselves and their situation. The issue is delicate and complex.

This resource allows people to understand contested terms and understand how language can result from and perpetuate stigma. In Scotland, there is an emerging consensus on the use of people-first language – using ‘people who use drugs’ rather than ‘drug users’ or ‘drug misusers’ or ‘addicts’, for example. There has also been a commitment in the latest drug strategy to use acceptable terms. However, there is a long way to go.

To access this document, follow this link>>>.


Services in Slovenia well organised

Drop-in centres in Slovenia have been closed by the decision of the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic.

In Ljubljana, the Association for Harm Reduction Stigma continues to distribute sterile injecting equipment. The mobile outreach service (a van) continues to operate in the central part of Slovenia.

Injecting drug users have access to sterile injecting equipment but security measures are introduced: clients and staff have to keep 1.5 m distance from each other. All other information and counselling are available via telephone or online.

Drug testing, performed by Association Drogart, is open, but in smaller scale as before and with more safety measures.

OST is working, users get their take home medicine for a week, some even for two or three weeks. OST delivery was organised in a very good way since the first indications that the epidemic can hit Europe appeared.

One of the problems is closure of public transportation, which means that some persons cannot reach the OST clinics. For some of them, Association for harm reduction Stigma can deliver their methadone.

The greatest challenge is to support homeless people because they have nowhere to go (all daily care programs are closed, as well as public toilettes, due to safety reasons). There are negotiations with local authorities and ministries on how to deal with this situation.

Night shelters and safe houses for women are still open. However, it is very problematic because staff and clients have no safety masks. The use of disinfectants is mandatory.

The shelter in Ljubljana, run by the organisation Krali ulice, received new furniture. A special shelter for homeless people who may be infected with coronavirus is ready if this happens.

Chase the virus – Call for national partners

Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) is looking for national partners (country consortia, NGOs, community organizations and initiative groups) to develop and implement 4 national campaigns under the branding of “Chase the virus, not people!” in countries of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region.

Aim of the campaign is to strengthen the voice and influence of national activists at the national level in articulating their advocacy priorities and drawing the attention of target audiences to the problems of key populations in relation to the catastrophic HIV/AIDS epidemic in the EECA region, in particular the impact of stigma, discrimination and criminalization on effective response measures to HIV/AIDS epidemic and mortality reduction.

EHRA is issuing 4 grants to the winners in the open competition (NGO, community organization or initiative groups, which are officially registered or have financial agents).

To get full information on this call, follow this link>>>

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 (, Ms. Heeyoung Park ( or Ms. Giovanna Campello ( from the UNODC PTRS team.

CND 2019 started!

After the two-day Ministerial segment held last week, the Regular segment of the UN Committee for Narcotic Drugs (CND) started on Monday 18 March in Vienna. Several representatives of member organisations and DPNSEE participate in the 62nd CND Session.

The Plenary sessions were dealing with business as usual of the CND and UNODC: Strategic management, budgetary and administrative questions and Implementation of the international drug control treaties.

Side events are of specific interest because they present activities, project, policies, approaches and other results from a variety of stakeholders. Here is a review of a few of them in which we participated today.

Scaling the UNODC-Lions Clubs International Foundation global partnership for school-based prevention

This international programme, implemented in cooperation between UNODC and the International Association of Lions Clubs in the region, seems like recycling the results of the project in previous years. It is a Social and Emotional Learning Program promoting Connection to school, Positive behaviour, Character education, Anti-bullying, Drug, alcohol, and tobacco awareness and Service-learning. The programme included training for a large number of teachers. The project started in South East Europe, first in Serbia, then in Montenegro and North Macedonia and then in Bosnia Herzegovina and El Salvador. Now, preparations are at the end to start it in Croatia, Guatemala and Ivory Coast. More about the programme is available at

Addressing stigma: Continuing the discussion

Organized by the Governments of Canada, Estonia, Norway and Uruguay, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section and the Civil Society Task Force. Good example of three-times expanding the health care for drug users in Uruguay was presented. Three Whitepapers QuitStigmaNow in Health Services, Workplace and Media prepared by Dianova International were also presented and are worth reading. Dr Gilberto Gerra, Chief of Health at UNODC stated that ‘Evidence suggests that incarceration because of drug related offenses is associated w low socio-economic status. This can result in more stigma & discrimination making them more vulnerable.

Strengthening equity in health and resilience: Taking into account the social determinants and risk factors for non-medical use of drugs and criminality

Organised by governments of Portugal and Sweden and UNODC. The Portuguese representative simply explained that their approach is based on two principles: humanism and pragmatism. In Sweden, they have the Strategy on Alcohol, Narcotics, Doping and Tobacco. Health is in all the policies. The highest prevalence of drug use is in groups with lowest education, especially women. UNODC presented data about strong connection between poverty and drug dependence.


An incident

During the Ministerial segment, a group of NGO activists protested in front of the Philippines exhibition. NGO’s were warned to abstain from protesting. Today, we were all invited to make a Vienna NGO group photo. Some used the opportunity to hold posters of their friends who were prevented to participate, because of being arrested or killed. The security of the Vienna International Centre estimated this as an act of demonstration, one which NGOs are doing even if they are warned not to do it, took away the posters, forced people to take of shirts with messages (mainly of the campaign Support. Don’t Punish) and informed us that they will propose that NGO participants will be kicked out of the event.

We are all POSITIVE!

On the occasion of World AIDS Day 2018, the Greek Association of People Living with HIV Positive Voice and the Onassis Foundation organized a series of interpersonal activities “I am Positive” promoting human stories related to HIV/AIDS on 21 and 22 November 2018 at The Onassis Stegi Cultural Centre in Athens.

Children and adolescents had the opportunity to chat with representatives of the seropositive community on sexual health, but also about the challenges and prejudices they face and the stigma that accompanies these groups through their stories, hopes and fears, the reality that HIV-positive people in Greece face and the medical and social dimension of the disease. A serodifferent couple, a mother whose son lives with HIV and a gay claiming his right to prophylactic treatment PrEP shared with the public their thoughts and experiences.

The debate was co-ordinated by journalist Elena Akrita.

To view the original article, including video recordings of personal testimonies, follow this link>>>>

How can I trust you?

In occasion of the Global Day of Action, Udruga Terra from Rijeka held a theatrical play “How can I trust you?” The play was created with the idea to indicate the problem of accepting differences and the need to reduce prejudices, stigmatisation and violence against people who had or still have problem with drug addiction. The play was staged in the café bar “Dnevni boravak” with the aim to raise awareness about stigmatisation of those who managed to fight the addiction and the problems they face when returning to daily life.

Forum theatre, as the form of stage expression, allow the spectators to intervene and contribute to the happening at the scene and join actors in finding original solution to the problems they face and contribute to raise awareness on the problem that the play tackles.

After the play, a dialogue with the public continued.

Documenting drug related cases of discrimination in South East Europe

The basic human rights of marginalised groups in South East Europe are violated and they are marginalised and discriminated. Stigmatisation in the society is strong and incorporated in cultural patterns. DPNSEE, with the support of its member organisations, is launching a survey to document cases of discrimination of drug users and connected vulnerable and marginalised groups and produce an analysis of the findings. The survey shall indicate different forms of discrimination and will serve as basis for additional actions on safeguarding human rights of affected groups.

The most frequent cases of discrimination are related to stigmatization in various respects, the relationship between the police and the judicial system (including the right to information in criminal proceedings), the protection of personal data, basic and specific health care, social protection, the right to education, employment and many other areas of life which should be available to every person.

The questionnaire is not intended to be filled by beneficiaries, but by organisation’s activists, preferably those who already have established relation with persons from key populations. Before filling in the document by interviewing people, their task is to explain them the aim, process and content of the document, give them the information about the research and approve their participation. Only then, they should go through the questionnaire with the key population member.

For the country contexts, you are free to adjust it to your own country, as we are just mapping the situation. The questionnaire should serve more like a guideline to you, as we repeat that it is not research per se, but rather initial mapping.

DPNSEE would very much appreciate if an organisation would join this effort and help us to document the case of discrimination. Please, use the tool which is available for downloading following this link>>>

Should you need any help on this issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us at

The deadline we set is 6 June 2018! Please, use the above-mentioned e-mail address.