Global perspective Human stories

UN anti-narcotics chief urges drug testing to curb substance abuse

UN anti-narcotics chief urges drug testing to curb substance abuse

Antonio Costa
The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today called for drug testing to be introduced to curtail substance abuse by automobile drivers and operators of public transportation and commercial aircraft.

“Road testing works for alcohol; it will work for drugs,” UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa told the 14th Mayors’ Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, hosted by European Cities Against Drugs (ECAD).

ECAD represents mayors from 250 municipalities in 27 countries, and works to eliminate the production, trafficking and abuse of illegal drugs in Europe.

“Public opinion is waking up to the fact that some people are driving cars, public transport, operating heavy machinery or even flying airplanes while on drugs,” Mr. Costa said, welcoming moves made by Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and several European Union (EU) countries to tackle the problem.

He also called on nations to bolster their drug treatment and rehabilitation programmes, and recommended that European cities partner with each other to share their experiences in controlling narcotics.

“One of the biggest challenges for mankind is to prevent drugs and crime from destroying our cities,” he noted.

Curbing drugs is a community-wide responsibility and addiction is treatable, he told the meeting’s participants. However, both prevention and treatment – the tools by which narcotics are controlled – are inadequate in many areas, thus fuelling the spread of HIV/AIDS and leading to higher crime rates.

Mr. Costa appealed to the mayors to expand TREATNET, a global network of 20 drug treatment and rehabilitation resource centres created by UNODC.

“I want to see 100 times more centres in this network, starting with one in every European city represented here,” he said, reminding attendees of the high human and financial tolls taken by drug addiction. “Studies suggest that treatment is actually cost effective, both in terms of enriching society and improving productivity.”

He also encouraged European cities to mentor and assist cities in the developing world to right drugs, suggesting that ECAD could eventually expand into a larger “World Cities against Drugs” organization.

“We all have a shared responsibility to fight drugs and protect those who are vulnerable to them,” he stated.