The recognition of drug addiction as a disease was the focus of a panel discussion at United Nations Headquarters on Thursday. “Leaving No One Behind: The Opioid Epidemic as a Global Challenge,” was organized by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to highlight the growing problem of addiction worldwide.
“Treating addiction as something criminal is contributing to this global crisis,” said Nora Volkow, director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse. Volkow called on the importance of acknowledging the drug problem “from the perspective of the health system.”
“When we understand that people are ill, stigma goes away, and we know what to do, we treat them with compassion and we get them the best treatment we can,” added David Sheff, best-selling author and advocate, who has become an expert on the international opioid crisis, which has become a major public health emergency in the United States.
According to the latest World Drug Report launched by the UN agency in 2018, the non-medical use of prescription drugs is becoming a major threat to public health and law enforcement worldwide, with opioids causing the most harm and accounting for 76 per cent of deaths associate with drug misuse.
Highlighting the importance of understanding “brain chemistry” and the role of education in prevention, Sheff added that “much of the drug usage decision comes from stress,” which can result from many factors including family discord, stress at school, or violence, but also simply the day-to-day stress of growing up.