In an effort to reduce the health and social impact of drug use in Pakistan, the United Nations and the country’s authorities are working together on a new project to ensure addicts have access to appropriate treatment and care.
Pakistan is joining an initiative of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Office for Drug Control (UNODC) promoting the treatment and care of those with substance abuse disorders. The programme will support ongoing national efforts to enhance access to services for preventing and treating drug-related problems.
“In many countries, drug dependence treatment can be a low priority on the political agenda, and this needs to change, particularly when we look at how people’s health can be impacted by drug dependence,” said Vladimir Poznyak, WHO’s coordinator of substance abuse disorders.
“Drug use is one of the top 20 risk factors to health worldwide and drug use disorders are associated with increased risks of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis, suicide, overdose deaths and cardiovascular diseases,” said Mr. Poznyak, who is visiting Pakistan as part of a joint WHO-UNODC mission.
A 2006 national assessment of drug use in Pakistan estimated that there were 628,000 opiate users in the country, with around 482,000, or some 77 per cent, heroin addicts. The number of injecting drug users in 2006 was estimated at 125,000, double the 2000 figure.
“We applaud Pakistan for taking this action to improve the lives of people with substance dependence,” said Guido Sabatinelli, WHO’s representative to Pakistan. “Providing treatment to people suffering from this disease and small investments in treatment services can have large impacts for the drug users, their families and society at large,” he added.
Drug dependence and illicit drug use are associated with health problems, poverty, violence, criminal behaviour, and social exclusion, according to Gilberto Gerra, the chief of UNODC’s Drug Prevention and Health Branch.
The WHO-UNODC Joint Programme on Drug Dependence Treatment and Care has already been launched in Albania, Haiti and Serbia. It aims to promote and support evidence-based and ethical treatment policies, strategies and interventions for drug use and dependence.