Open letter to WHO & UNODC to revise guidelines on “International Standards for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders”

The 61st session of the UN Commission on Drugs, in which Diogenes participates as a consutative NGO on the UN ECOSOC Council, is taking place in Vienna from 12 to 16 March. Today, March 15, during the Session, a discussion is held on the results of the WHO and the UNODC joint work on new “international standards for the treatment of drug use disorders”.

“Diogenis” a few days ago, together with 187 other organizations active in the field of psychoactive substances treatment, harm reduction and politics, co-signed an open letter to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), calling for a revision of the final text before it is published and/or promoted internationally, indicating the following:

  • The paper contains many assertions not supported evidentiarily or cited.
  • The phrase ‘harm reduction’ is entirely missing from the document.
  • The paper contains crude generalisations and many stigmatising and pathologising assertions.
  • Notably, the paper contains numerous implications that people who use drugs and have drug dependencies are dangerous; cannot exercise agency and self-determination; are sick; are unreliable; are bad family members; are bad employees. Needless to say, such crude generalisations are deeply stigmatising and offensive, not to mention unempirical.
  • The paper fails to identify criminalisation and prohibition as being responsible for driving much drug related harm and harm associated with drug dependency; instead, it myopically asserts that because drugs are harmful, they are criminalised, without noting that it is due to the fact that they are criminalised that they are so harmful.
  • The paper’s active promotion Naltrexone is very concerning, given its lack of evidentiary support: Naltrexone is promoted in the document as of equal value to interventions that are (in contrast to Naltrexone) empirically justified and greatly beneficial; this is arguably used to eclipse interventions with proven efficacy, such as methadone, buprenorphine, and diamorphine/morphine prescribing, due to the document’s clear advocation of abstinence-based recovery.

You can read the signed letter of civil society organizations here.