26 June 2020

Know more, care more. Addressing the world drug problem requires responses that are based on facts, solidarity and compassion.


Some 35.6 million people suffer from drug use disorders globally, according to the World Drug Report 2020 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime(UNODC).


Around 269 million people used drugs in 2018, up 30 per cent from 2009. While the increase reflects population growth and other factors, illicit drugs – including opiates and pharmaceutical opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine – are still more available, more diverse and more potent than before, challenging law enforcement, posing greater health risks and complicating efforts to prevent and treat drug use disorders.


Adolescents and young adults account for the largest share of those using drugs. Of the 11 million people who inject drugs, half of them are living with hepatitis C, and 1.4 million with HIV.


Only one out of eight people who need drug-related treatment receive it. One out of three drug users is a woman but women represent only one out of five people in treatment. People in prison settings, minorities, immigrants and displaced people also face barriers to treatment due to discrimination and stigma.


585,000 died in 2017 in relation to drug use, up one-quarter from 2008. Over the past decade, the total number of deaths due to opioid use disorders went up 71 percent, with a 92 percent increase among women compared with 63 percent among men.


All over the world, we see that risks and consequences of drug use are worsened by poverty, limited opportunities for education and jobs, stigma and social exclusion, which in turn helps to deepen inequalities, moving us further away from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.


The COVID-19 crisis has intensified these challenges further still, overwhelming health systems and exposing the fragility of institutions and social safety nets.


The theme of this year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, “Better Knowledge for Better Care”, highlights the need to understand drug dynamics trapping so many millions of people in a downward spiral, to inform balanced solutions that are based on scientific evidence, to know better what the issues are and to provide better care for those who need it.


Health-centred, rights-based and gender-responsive approaches to drug use and related diseases deliver better public health, and we need to do more to share this learning and support implementation, most of all in developing countries.


Governments pledged to advance such balanced, comprehensive and evidencebased responses in the 2019 CND Ministerial Declaration. In the COVID-19 recovery, we need all countries to act on their commitments, and show shared responsibility to tackle illicit drug supply and reduce demand. We need civil society and youth organizations to continue their efforts to support the vulnerable in their communities.


Together, we can pursue more effective prevention and protection, to build resilience as we build back better, and leave no one behind.



26 June 2020

Mutual support and trustworthy information have proven to be pillars of responding effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic and saving lives.

Cooperation, reliable data and evidence-based action are just as vital to addressing the many challenges posed by the world drug problem, protecting people’s security and realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.

This year’s theme of International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking — “Better Knowledge for Better Care” — speaks to the need to build solutions based on facts and shared responsibility.

The international community has a solid foundation for action, with an agreed legal framework and commitments outlined in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The United Nations, in line with its common position on drug policy, is also enriching the evidence base, including through the annual UNODC World Drug Report.

We must also strive to build on what works. As Prime Minister of Portugal more than two decades ago, my government launched a drug policy rooted in taking strong action in two areas. First, by cracking down on drug trafficking and those who profit from human misery. And, second, on making sure that those who need treatment get it. Those who develop an addiction to drugs are first and foremost patients and victims. That approach succeeded and drug consumption went down significantly, particularly among young people. Today, Portugal has one of Europe’s lowest death rates from drug use.

Together, we can develop sustainable alternatives to illicit drug crop cultivation; tackle drug trafficking and related organized crime; and advance justice responses as well as prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug use and related HIV interventions. And we can do so in ways that are sensitive to the needs of women, young people and marginalized groups and that respect human rights.

June 26 is the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, also referred to as World Drug Day. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1987, this day serves as a reminder of the goals agreed to by Member States of creating an international society free of drug abuse.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) selects themes for the International Day and launches campaigns to raise awareness about the global drug problem.

We invite everyone to mark 26 June! It is a unique occasion to take a stand against a problem that affects us all.

UNODC campaign themes since 2000

2019 –  “Health for Justice. Justice for Health.”

2016-2018 – Listen FIRST – Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe”

2015 – “Lets Develop – Our Lives – Our Communities – Our Identities – Without Drugs”

2014 – “A message of hope: Drug use disorders are preventable and treatable”

2013 – “Make health your ‘new high’ in life, not drugs”

2012 – “Global Action for Healthy Communities without Drugs”

2011 – “Say No!”

2010 – “Think health – not drugs”

2007-2009 – “Do drugs control your life? Your life. Your community. No place for drugs.”

2006 – “Value yourself…make healthy choices”

2005 – “Drugs is not child’s play”

2004 – “Drugs: treatment works”

2003 – “Let’s talk about drugs”

2002 – “Substance abuse and HIV/AIDS”

2001 – “Sports against drugs”

2000 – “Facing reality: denial, corruption and violence”

Drug abuse is a complex problem at the intersection of public health, safety and social issues. It takes a heavy toll on our families and communities, claiming more than half a million lives per year. The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking shines a spotlight on this preventable crisis, and on the global quest to advance successful responses.

The international community is determined to address and counter the world drug problem, reaffirming its resolve in the Ministerial Declaration adopted at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna last March. To be effective, holistic approaches are needed. Integrated solutions are only possible when fair and humane institutions of criminal justice, health and social services work hand in hand.

The theme of this year’s International Day, “Health for Justice – Justice for Health”, reflects this imperative.

As a chronic health disorder, drug dependence needs to be prevented and treated in line with international standards and science. Health and justice cooperation is essential to closing the gaps, making sure responses include youth and women, fight discrimination and promote alternatives to imprisonment for people with drug use disorders.   

Social inclusion and building resilience, as well as rehabilitation and reintegration, are instrumental in helping prevent crime and violence. Connectedness and communication in families, schools and communities can play a major role in strengthening our societies’ defences against drugs.

Better understanding of drug problems is also needed. Research and analysis are necessary to inform policy and enable international cooperation around evidence-based solutions.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime remains committed to supporting all countries to work together and promote balanced, health- and rights-based approaches to drug challenges, building on the international drug control conventions, human rights obligations and the Sustainable Development Goals.


The world drug problem is one of the most challenging issues we face. It has wide-ranging impacts on the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities, as well as on the security and sustainable development of nations.


Therefore, preventing and addressing drug challenges in all their complexity is essential to delivering on a fundamental global pledge, enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals: to leave no one behind. 


National priorities may differ, but the international community shares a common goal to protect people’s security and well-being, while striving for the progress and dignity of all.


I welcome the theme of this International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking – “health for justice, justice for health” – underlining the importance of a holistic approach involving health, human rights, criminal justice and social service institutions.


This comprehensive response guided the drug policy launched by my government when I was Prime Minister of Portugal two decades ago.


Earlier this year, at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Member States committed to “working together for rights- and health-based responses to drugs so that people can live in health, dignity and peace, with security and prosperity”.


I call on all governments to live up to this pledge. This means cracking down on drug trafficking and those who profit from human misery, including by enhanced international cooperation and intelligence-sharing across the entire drug supply chain. It also means human rights-based, gender- and age-sensitive prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug use and HIV, offered without stigma or discrimination. It also means law enforcement approaches that protect people from violence and criminal exploitation. 


Families, schools and communities play a crucial role, especially in supporting youth who may be affected by drug abuse with terrible and long-lasting consequences. Let us work with and for young people to prevent drug use and help young people lead healthier lives and navigate life choices with strength and resilience.


On this International Day, let us show our commitment to fulfilling our promise to ensure health and justice for all.

Augusto Nogueira, new president of the International Federation of Non-Government Organizations for the Prevention of Drug and Substance Abuse (IFNGO), does not think that the Macau government is enforcing heavy punishment for drug users.

Nogueria is also the president of the Association of Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers of Macau (ARTM) and a member of the MSAR Government’s Narcotics Control Commission and was this year’s president-elect of the 27th IFNGO World Conference, which concluded yesterday.

Talking to the Times on the sidelines of the closing ceremony of the 27th IFNGO World Conference yesterday, Nogueira said: “It’s not heavy. It’s only three months to one year in prison, and only if they are caught for the second or third time. Of course we want zero, [we want] nobody with drug consumption to go to prison. Of course we prefer them to be referred to treatment centers. The drug law was approved one year ago, [we are still waiting] for the evaluation of the results.”

Nogueira thinks that the drug decriminalization policy is working effectively in Portugal, where drug use is not criminalized (only drug trafficking is) and believes that “what is happening in Portugal can be successful in other countries.”

“Each country has its own reality, but, I am sure that what is happening in Portugal can be implemented in many other countries.”

Commenting on whether drug decriminalization can be implemented in Macau, Nogueira said: “I do think that we can have some similar [outcomes] in Macau. […] The new law has been approved, now we have to see and to wait.”

Nogueira remarked that Macau’s current drug consumption situation is “ok and is stable.”

“Of course there is a small increase, but nothing special. There is a trend of going to the ice within the young generation, so we are working on that as well, not only prevention […]. We can say that we are controlling the increase,” he added.

Nogueira stated that Macau has a “good capacity of drug rehabilitation centers.”

“During this conference, the guests and the participants had the opportunity to visit [the drug rehabilitation centers] and they are very impressed with our facilities that we have in Macau. […] Thanks to the Macau government that has invested a lot in supporting NGOs.”

Regarding his suggestions to the Macau government of improving the consumption of drugs in the region, Nogueira said “Macau’s drug consumption has been improving for 17 years.”

“We just hope that we can continue working. Of course, there are small things that we need to improve. […] But these are smalls things and technical things that we are all working [on] together.”

The ARTM president thinks that currently there is no urgent issue that needs to be improved regarding the consumption of drugs in Macau.

“Currently, we have to first see the results of our new drug law,” said Nogueira.

As the new president of the IFNGO, Nogueira wants to “improve the IFNGO, aiming to make it a credible association again and to be a new strong voice here in Asia.”

“IFNGO has existed for many years, it’s activity has been slightly down in the last years. […] We have a lot of contact with Macau social affairs. […] We have to work to see what we can improve,” said Nogueira.

The 27th IFNGO World Conference – International Drug Policy Consortium which closed at Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel yesterday, had invited international representatives to discuss drug prevention methods, treatments, addictions, harm reduction and general drug policies.

International Federation of Non-Government Organizations for the Prevention of Drug and Substance Abuse (IFNGO) President-Elect Augusto Nogueira wants to give wider visibility to the organization he starts to lead from November this year, by opening it to other ideologies beyond zero tolerance policy. Speaking to O CLARIM, Nogueira, who is also executive director of the Association of Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers of Macau (ARTM) is in favor of further amendments in local anti-drug law, stating that there should be greater involvement of health experts in law enforcement.


You’ll take over the presidency of IFNGO next November during its 27th World Conference, in Macau. Who are the important names already confirmed?

The conference will be attended by João Goulão, SICAD [General Directorate for Intervention on Addictive Behaviors and Dependencies] of Portugal, Jeremy Douglas, Regional Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and Catherine Sozi, UNAIDS Country Director and Representative to the People’s Republic of China. There will be other international speakers, including experts in prevention, treatment and harm reduction.

How important is this conference to Macau?

Whoever works, or is involved in this area, can assimilate knowledge and have the opportunity to share the work done in Macau. Several issues will be addressed, including the discussion of “the law itself.” Not the law of Macau, but the one that generally applies throughout the world, from decriminalization in Portugal to penalization in other jurisdictions… The best solution will be analyzed: whether a more health approach and treatment or punishment with incarceration. It will be something like “law enforcement vs. treatment” or “law enforcement vs. harm reduction.”

What are the goals for your two-year term?

IFNGO is a very special organization, since its secretariat and headquarters are closely linked to Malaysia and the Malay government. As such, it is also keen on both zero-tolerance and Muslim-oriented associations. Personally speaking, it will be two years of many challenges. My idea is to make IFNGO welcoming to other ideologies [not just the zero-tolerance one] and having more international visibility. For this conference in Macau, we will be counting on the presence of activists and experts in harm reduction.

Macau’s anti-drug law revision has been in force since last December. Is it more oppressive than previous legislation?

On what we have been told, there is the intention by courts of a greater channeling of persons to the treatment centers. It is too early for an assessment in order to say whether this measure pays off or not.

You’re talking about addicts, not drug dealers…

Of course! But I also acknowledge that people involved in a certain type of trafficking should be sent to treatment centers, because in these situations trafficking only exists to fuel consumption. It all depends on the quantities involved and the situations.

Do you think it may raise problems on personal dignity — a suspect of being under the influence of narcotic drugs, or psychotropic substances, being referred by the competent authorities in order to do the urine drug test? Or is the law clear on this point?

The term suspicious behavior is, itself, quite broad. What is involved in this strange behavior? I have no idea. Of course, this worries me. And I am so worried that before the law was passed I expressed my disagreement on this. It was approved, that’s true… So far, we [ARTM] have not heard complaints. I suppose the police authorities are not going around looking for people with strange behaviors to take them on… However, if in one group tools for drug consumption are found, I suppose it makes sense for them [police], and for what the law requires, to get them and take the drug test. Personally, I do not think it makes any sense. We should not have [this rule.]

What if there’s a positive drug test?

You need to know what is going to happen to that person. Whether or not it was the first time. Or if the drug was consumed on free will or if someone else put it in the drink without that person’s knowledge. Is he or she a regular consumer? Or was it the first time and had bad luck? It shouldn’t only be someone who consumes and smokes marijuana or gives a heroin inhalation for the first time, having the misfortune to be caught, and be present in court, for the judge ordering him or her to comply with treatment…

What to do then?

This person doesn’t need treatment. It’s a bit rough to send him or her to a treatment center for a few months, or a year, having no need for that. You need to create another type of monitoring, a support, without sending that person to a treatment center. However, you need to define the rules. Which are to make an assessment and know what to do in these cases, since there are people who firstly need to be channeled to psychiatry, instead of a treatment center. So, for this new anti-drug law it would be also good to have health experts evaluating these people.

Can you give us more details?

If it is really the intention to help these people by sending them to treatment, then the whole structure has to be made in order to have the proper effect, instead of waiting for the goodwill of the judges in court: one who’s caught in the net of justice for the first, or the second time, the judges may even give a chance, but if it is the 10th or 15th time they may think that there’s no more hope, and decide to send that person to prison. However, there are cases of people who have been 10, 15 and 20 times in the treatment centers, and have had the click, and are now pretty well away of drugs.

You mean in Macau?

There are many cases here! Now, when this click is given, for sure no one knows in advance. It may also never happen

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