UN drug tsar urges States to tackle crime and dependency together

11 March 2009

The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today urged governments around the world to treat illegal drug dependence as an illness, as well as a crime, and to devote more resources to crime prevention, treatment for users and harm reduction.

The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today urged governments around the world to treat illegal drug dependence as an illness, as well as a crime, and to devote more resources to crime prevention, treatment for users and harm reduction.

UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa also told the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs – which is the Organization’s policy-making body for drug-related matters – that “the world drug problem has been contained, but not solved.”

Mr. Costa noted in a report to the Commission that international controls have limited the number of people who take drugs to a small fraction of the world’s adult population, which is much smaller than those who use other addictive substances, like tobacco and alcohol.

However, global drug control efforts have had “a dramatic unintended consequence: a criminal black market of staggering proportions,” warned Mr. Costa.

He said that the illicit trade in narcotics is “undermining security and development and causing some to make a dangerous wager in favour of legalization. Drugs are not harmful because they are controlled; they are controlled because they are harmful.”

In the report, Organized Crime and its Threat to Security, he said, “The crime and corruption associated with the drugs trade are providing strong evidence to a vocal minority of pro-drug lobbyists to argue that the cure is worse than the disease and that legalization is the solution.”

He warned that the legalization of drugs would be an “historic mistake.”

Mr. Costa stressed on the opening of the two-day high-level segment of the Commission in Vienna that “there is no need for governments to make a choice between public health [drug control] and public security [crime prevention]. They can and must protect both.”

 

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