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Committee calls for a public-health-oriented drug policy

Ahead of the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, to be held on 19-21 April 2016 in New York, PACE’s Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development today approved the following statement:

“The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe stresses that the world drug problem constitutes a major public health threat, for both individual drug users and society as a whole.

The committee notes that today there is a growing perception that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed to deliver its promise of reducing drug traffic and use worldwide. It also notes that drug-control efforts based on this approach and focusing on repression have been responsible for generating large-scale human rights abuses, including the violation of the right to health, and disastrous consequences in terms of public health.

Recalling Assembly Resolution 1576 (2007) “For a European convention promoting public health policy in drug control”, the committee reiterates that the drug problem needs to be addressed with public heath responses including substitution treatment, needle exchange programmes and psychosocial treatment. These measures have had a marked effect on the successful long-term rehabilitation of drug users and their reintegration into society. The resulting benefits have been felt by society as a whole, through reductions in the incidence of criminal behaviour, reduced costs for health and criminal justice systems, reduced risks of transmission of HIV and other blood-borne viruses, and, ultimately, reduced levels of drug use.

In view of these elements, the committee strongly supports the call for a change in approach to drug policy and calls on member States to adopt and promote a public-health-oriented drug policy based on prevention, treatment and harm reduction. It also invites all participants of the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem to defend a new approach to drug policy, which should shift the emphasis from criminal justice to public health.”