Int’l Treaties’ Aim Is Health, Not ‘War on Drugs’

Int’l Treaties’ Aim Is Health, Not ‘War on Drugs’Int’l Treaties’ Aim Is Health, Not ‘War on Drugs’

The ultimate goal of the international drug control treaties is to ensure the health and welfare of mankind, according to a United Nations-backed report, which this year underscored that the objectives of the conventions are often misinterpreted as mandating a “war on drugs.”

The 2015 report released today by the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a body charged with overseeing governments’ compliance with the drug control treaties, will contribute to debate on drug policy in the run-up to the special session of the UN General Assembly on the world drug problem slated for April 19-21, reports the UN News Center.

The board stressed that ensuring the availability of drugs for medical purposes—as stipulated by the international drug control treaties – and reducing the illicit supply of drugs needs to be carefully balanced.

 “It is not the case that the world must choose between ‘militarized’ drug law enforcement on one hand and the legalization of non-medical use of drugs on the other; but rather to put health and welfare at the center of a balanced drug policy,” said INCB President Werner Sipp.

The report contains thematic chapters on the health and welfare of mankind and the international drug control system, as well as an analysis of the situation by region.

For the first time in six years, the estimated area under illicit cultivation of opium poppy in Afghanistan, the world’s top producer, has decreased. Nevertheless, levels of illicit opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan continue to be high in absolute terms, even though 40% more opium poppy was eradicated in 2015.

It cited the fundamental role played by alternative development initiatives in curbing opium poppy cultivation and providing farmers with legitimate alternatives for supporting themselves and their families.

The board called on governments to devise practical and realistic measures to protect the public from the harms posed by the increasingly large number of new psychoactive substances and to ensure health-care providers do not overprescribe sedatives, particularly among elderly people.

  602 New Substances

The report identifies new psychoactive substances as a growing threat as they continue to emerge in increasingly high numbers.

By October 2015, member states had reported 602 new substances. This represents a 55% increase from the previous year, when 388 new substances were reported. Keeping up with this pace represents a key challenge for the international drug control system, which will need to come up with more flexible and workable approaches to tackle the threat of new psychoactive substances.

In 2015, 10 new psychoactive substances were placed under international control by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and national control of such substances was expanded in a number of countries, including China and India.

The report also noted with concern the risks of unwarranted prescribing and overuse of benzodiazepines, a class of drugs used to treat insomnia and anxiety, by older people. Patients over the age of 65 using benzodiazepines have been shown to have a 50% higher chance of developing dementia within 15 years, compared with patients who have never used them. The board called on governments to ensure that health-care providers follow sound medical practice when prescribing benzodiazepines.