Drug addiction prevents the individual from realizing his or her full potential. In doing so, it acts as an obstacle to social development. The social and economic costs of drug abuse place an intolerable strain on the social infrastructures of developed and developing countries alike. The illicit production of drugs diverts human and natural resources from more productive activities and weakens the foundation for long-term economic growth. As drug abuse affects more and more countries, the power of international drug trafficking organizations threatens to corrupt and destabilize the institutions of government. The crime associated with drugs, much of it violent, makes a misery of many lives.
The drug phenomenon is unique in the number of aspects of people's lives which it affects -the health of the individual, political and economic development, the safety of the streets and the stability of governments. Its many ramifications complicate the task of all those individuals and organizations, like the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), which are dedicated to tackling the problem.
UN involvement in drug abuse control dates back to 1946 when it assumed the responsibility for the international drug control efforts begun by the League of Nations. Since 26 June 1988, the UN has held an annual International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Yearly observance of the day seeks to raise public awareness and promote preventive measures. At its special session on international drugs control in February 1990, the General Assembly proclaimed the period from 1991-2000 as the United Nations Decade Against Drug Abuse—a time for intensifying and sustaining international, regional and national efforts in the fight against drug abuse and to promote the implementation of the Global Programme of Action, recently revised to include a System-Wide Action Plan on Drug Abuse Control. The UN International Drugs Control Programme (UNDCP) was established in 1991 to coordinate all UN drug control activities and promote implementation of international treaties. It has worked to (a) reduce demand for illicit drugs and promote healthy behaviour; (b) suppress drug trafficking; (c) reducing illicit supply and encouraging alternative development by helping farmers to reduce their economic reliance on growing narcotic crops by shifting farm production toward other dependable sources of income, and by focusing on integrated rural development; and (d) protecting the environment by educating farmers about the damage caused to their land and their futures by the cultivation of illicit crops, and reforesting and rehabilitating damaged land.
ILO has focused on the vocational rehabilitation and social reintegration of recovering addicts.
European Ministers of the Cooperation Group to Combat Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Drugs meet periodically to exchange information on the measures taken or contemplated to combat drug abuse and illicit traffic. Ministers of non-member states of all central and East European countries are now associated with these meetings and the work of the Group in general. At a meeting held on 3-4 Feb 1994, Strasbourg, Ministers agreed that work should continue on the improvement of collection and evaluation of data to assist in policy making, on dissemination of information on education and prevention strategies including the role of the police in prevention and on demand reduction through the criminal justice system, that a working group would study a number of specific issues related to treatment and rehabilitation, and that pan-European cooperation would be strengthened, setting up in particular a training programme for demand reduction staff. Other activities would include the study of strategies to deal with new trends in drug abuse, consideration of drug abuse by minority groups, elaboration of measures to prevent diversion of psychotropic substances manufactured in Europe and meetings of persons responsible for combating trafficking at major ports and airports. The Group was instrumental in drawing up the Convention on laundering, search, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds from crime and the Agreement on Illicit Traffic by Sea, implementing article 17 of the UN Convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
Prevention should be favoured for users and sanctions for dealers, even if both roles are combined on occasion in the same person.
We must approach drug abuse by first understanding its relationship with the other issues affecting societies.