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Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture On the ‘accountability gap’ for torture and ill-treatment in private drug treatment centres

(…) Across the world, thousands of people who use drugs are detained against their will in private drug treatment centres. From India to Guatemala to Brazil, a range of horrifying abuses are routinely inflicted on people who use drugs, including inappropriate medical treatment, protracted solitary confinement, forced labour, sexual violence, and beatings, sometimes leading to death. The Committee Against Torture had made clear that statesbear responsibility for prohibiting, preventing, and providing redressfor torture and ill-treatmentin ‘all contexts of custodyor control’1, as it is the case in drug treatment centres. (IDPC – International Drug Policy Consortium, 15.05.2021)


Intersecting Stigmas among HIV-Positive People Who Inject Drugs in Vietnam. 

Do M, Ho HT, Dinh HT, Le HH, Truong TQ, Dang TV, Nguyen DD, Andrinopoulos K. 

Health Serv Insights. 2021 Apr 30;14:11786329211013552. doi: 10.1177/11786329211013552. PMID: 33994794; PMCID: PMC8107921.


A US national randomized study to guide how best to reduce stigma when describing drug-related impairment in practice and policy. 

Kelly, J. F., Greene, M. C., and Abry, A. (2021) 

Addiction, 116: 1757– 1767. doi.org/10.1111/add.15333


Public Stigma Toward Female and Male Opium and Heroin Users. An Experimental Test of Attribution Theory and the Familiarity Hypothesis. 

Sattler S, Zolala F, Baneshi MR, Ghasemi J, Amirzadeh Googhari S. 

Front Public Health. 2021 Apr 20;9:652876. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2021.652876. PMID: 33959582; PMCID: PMC8096178.


Kanada. Overcoming Stigma: Online Learning 

CCSA is using online learning to address the stigma surrounding substance use.

We have developed three learning modules on the topic of stigma associated with substance use. These modules have been made with both the general public and professional audiences in mind.

After completing the modules, you will understand that substance use disorder is a treatable, medically diagnosed, health condition, and that by using person-first language you can begin to change the way you think about and treat people with substance use disorder. The goal of the modules is to increase your understanding of stigma and equip you with the tools and knowledge you need to address stigma at home, in the workplace and in your communities. (CCSA - Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, Kanada, Mai 2021)


HIV-Related Stigma Research as a Priority at the National Institutes of Health. 

Greenwood GL, Wilson A, Bansal GP, Barnhart C, Barr E, Berzon R, Boyce CA, Elwood W, Gamble-George J, Glenshaw M, Henry R, Iida H, Jenkins RA, Lee S, Malekzadeh A, Morris K, Perrin P, Rice E, Sufian M, Weatherspoon D, Whitaker M, Williams M, Zwerski S, Gaist P. 

AIDS Behav. 2021 Apr 22:1–22. doi: 10.1007/s10461-021-03260-6. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33886010; PMCID: PMC8060687.


Do people stigmatize individuals with opioid use disorder even when their addiction arose from opioids prescribed for pain?

There is growing public awareness around the problem of opioid use disorder and greater knowledge of the role that opioids prescribed for pain management initially played in the opioid overdose crisis. Studies examining public attitudes specific to opioid use disorder associated with the initial medical use of opioids can help to inform public health policy and messaging. The authors of this study explored societal perceptions of individuals who developed opioid use disorder following physician-prescribed opioids for pain. (Recovery Research Institute, USA, 2021)


Describing addiction as a “chronically relapsing brain disease” is intended to decrease stigma, but may actually increase it

Biomedical terminology has been deployed purposely to describe addiction in an effort to reduce stigma. However, using these terms may have unintended consequences. While intensely debated, there were no rigorous scientific studies to empirically inform practice and policy regarding which specific terms may be most helpful in reducing stigma. In this study, the researchers used a rigorous study design to examine if exposure to a variety of commonly used medical and nonmedical terms describing opioid-related impairment makes a difference in people’s attitudes toward those with opioid use disorder.  (Recovery Research Institute, USA, April 2021)


Indivior launches rethink opioid addiction - a new public website to help challenge the stigma and raise awareness of opioid use disorder

Indivior has recently launched a new website which encourages people to rethink their perceptions of addiction, recovery, and treatment. The website will present scientific evidence, easy to understand explanations and links to public health resources. (Indivior, UK, April 2021)


Language and stigma: terms used in the area of alcohol and other drugs. 

Chagas C, Paula TCS, Galduróz JCF. 

Epidemiol Serv Saude. 2021 Mar 19;30(1):e2020921. Portuguese, English. doi: 10.1590/S1679-49742021000100024. PMID: 33759908.


Death Penalty For Drug Offences: Global Overview 2020

Harm Reduction International has monitored the use of the death penalty for drug offences worldwide since our first ground-breaking publication on this issue in 2007. This report, our tenth on the subject, continues our work of providing regular updates on legislative, policy and practical developments related to the use of capital punishment for drug offences, a practice which is a clear violation of international law. (Harm Reduction International, UK, 2021)


USA. Illinois Methadone Patients Could Be First to Have Privacy Rolled Back After SAMHSA Rule-Change

An Illinois Senator appears to be the first state lawmaker to push for a bill that would make a controversial federal rollback of opioid use disorder patients’ privacy rights mandatory at the state level. (Filter, USA, 29.03.2021)


Avoiding the stigma. A qualitative study of socially included women's experiences of drug use and dealing, health services and the police in France. 

Perrin S, Bertrand K, Langlois E. 

Int J Drug Policy. 2021 Jan;87:102850. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102850. Epub 2020 Jul 19. PMID: 32665146.


Irland. Growing older and more stigmatised on methadone

In a compelling study from Dublin, Paula Mayock and Shane Butler (Trinity College) make the point that little is known about the stigma experienced by individuals attending drug treatment services over prolonged periods.  They explored this through the lived-experience narratives of 25 people prescribed long-term methadone. Their findings ‘reveal the intersection of stigma with age as profoundly shaping methadone patients’ perspectives on their lives’. (Recovery Review, 17.02.2021)


Saudi-Arabien. Saudi Arabia curbs death penalty in move to soften image

Saudi Arabia said Monday it had imposed a moratorium on capital punishment for drug-related offenses that led to an 85% reduction in executions, as the conservative Muslim kingdom seeks to soften its image to attract Western tourists and foreign investment. (IDPC, 28.01.2021)


Studying harm from others’ illicit drug use—can stigma really be avoided?. 

Ramstedt, M. (2021) 

Addiction, doi.org/10.1111/add.15332. 


COVID-19 During the Opioid Epidemic - Exacerbation of Stigma and Vulnerabilities. 

Jenkins WD, Bolinski R, Bresett J, Van Ham B, Fletcher S, Walters S, Friedman SR, Ezell JM, Pho M, Schneider J, Ouellet L. 

J Rural Health. 2021 Jan;37(1):172-174. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12442. Epub 2020 Jun 1. PMID: 32277731; PMCID: PMC7262104.


Kanada. Toronto doctor creates blueprint for reducing addiction stigma in the Muslim community

Series of seminars held inside GTA mosques tackle misconceptions, religious issues. (CBC, Kanada, 17.01.2021)



Human Rights Watch, Januar 2021


INCB. President of the International Narcotics Control Board Cornelis P. de Joncheere: 

Message on Human Rights Day 2020 

VIENNA, 10 December (United Nations Information Service) - The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has repeatedly expressed its concern over reports of grave human rights violations purportedly in furtherance of national drug control policies.

The Board reminds all States that the primary objective of the international drug control conventions is to safeguard the health and welfare of humankind, including respect for human rights. (INCB, Wien, UNIS/NAR/1427, 10.12.2020)


Nepal. The human rights of people who use drugs: Recommendations for the UPR of Nepal

According to a June 2020 survey commissioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs, approximately 130,424 people in Nepal use drugs, of which 76.2% are below the age of 30.1 Over 63% of people who use drugs wanted to seek help, but few had access to any treatment facility, since people who use drugs are heavily stigmatized and criminalized in Nepal.

The Government has agreed to ensure that national drug policies fully respect human rights and fundamental freedom, as a UN member state during the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem in April 2016.3 But despite repeated calls from Nepalese civil society, the Narcotics Drug Control Act 2033 (1976) has not been revised in line with the obligations under international human rights treaties and the national constitution.

With the Drug Control Act of 2006 and the Drug Control Strategy of 2013, Nepal committed to place health and human rights at the center of its drug policies. However, the Drug Control Act 1976 has not been amended in line with these commitments, and evidence-based treatment is still sorely lacking across the country. (IDPC, UK, 30.12.2020)


Report to OHCHR on “human rights in the administration of justice”, pursuant to Resolution 42/11

Introduction: Harm Reduction International (HRI) and the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) welcome the opportunity to submit information to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for the preparation of its report under Human Rights Council Resolution 42/11 on human rights in the administration of justice. This submission addresses some of the current and emerging challengesspecifically faced by people detained for drug offences and people in detention who use drugs. 

Background: Of the 11 million people currently behind bars worldwide, close to half a million people are incarcerated for mere drug possession, with an additional 1.7 million incarcerated for other non-violent drug offences,).1 That means that about 21% - or over one in every five prisoners worldwide -are being held on a drug charge. Punitive drug laws have fuelled mass incarceration and have impacted marginalised communities disproportionately, often on the basis of race, ethnicity, and/or poverty.2 (Harm Reduction International and Drug Policy Consortium, UK, 11.01.2021)


A Community-Based Investigation of Stigma Toward Individuals Receiving Methadone Maintenance Treatment in China: A Randomized Case Vignette Study. 

Deng Q, Hu M, Yu F, Liu Q, Hao W, Wu Q, Luo T. 

Front Psychiatry. 2020 Nov 25;11:601266. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.601266. PMID: 33324264; PMCID: PMC7723969.


Creating an ethical culture to support recovery from substance use disorders. 

Williamson L. 

J Med Ethics. 2020 Nov 11:medethics-2020-106661. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2020-106661. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33177147.


Proposal of a scale for COVID-19 stigma-discrimination toward health workers. 

Campo-Arias A, Álvarez-Solorza I, Tirado-Otálvaro AF, Cassiani-Miranda CA. 

J Investig Med. 2020 Nov 26:jim-2020-001647. doi: 10.1136/jim-2020-001647. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33243823; PMCID: PMC7692020.


Prevalence and Associated Factors of Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms and Stigma among Health Care Workers in Contact with COVID-19 Patients. 

Zandifar A, Badrfam R, Mohammadian Khonsari N, Mohammadi MR, Asayesh H, Qorbani M. 

Iran J Psychiatry. 2020 Oct;15(4):340-350. doi: 10.18502/ijps.v15i4.4303. PMID: 33240384; PMCID: PMC7610075.


Stress and Stigmatization in Health-Care Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

GV, Makarevich OV, Neznanov NG, Morozov PV, Lutova NB, Mazo GE.  

Indian J Psychiatry. 2020 Sep;62(Suppl 3):S445-S453. doi: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_870_20. Epub 2020 Sep 28. PMID: 33227056; PMCID: PMC7659791.


Social Stigmatization of Drug Abusers in a Developing Country: A Cross-Sectional Study. 

Khalid F, Jaan A, Aslam MMS, Ahmed Z, Raheem A, Bodla ZH, Basit A, Hussain B, Iftikhar A, Tayyeb M, Khalid A, Rehman U. 

Cureus. 2020 Sep 26;12(9):e10661. doi: 10.7759/cureus.10661. PMID: 33133831; PMCID: PMC7586416.


“You Are Now Entering a Guilt-free Zone”

D. Robin Taylor, M.D., D.Sc.

N Engl J Med 2020; 383:2103-2105, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2003459


Ukraine. Targets (Video)

The film ‘Targets’ is a story about the women in Ukraine who are branded as “drug addicts” and who are being destroyed by the state today. These women are targets, and a real war is being waged against them. The film is an attempt to understand why this is happening and what needs to be done to stop these deaths.

On the one hand, the state finances a program of substitution maintenance therapy (SMT), which is a method of treating drug addiction with proven effectiveness. Many women in Ukraine receive this therapy. This gives them the opportunity to restore health and social ties, find work, devote time to family and children, etc.

However, on the other hand, as soon as a woman begins to receive this treatment, she is immediately diagnosed with drug addiction. At this moment, as a result of being given this status, she loses all her rights. In practice, this is very often used by social services, which can take children from such women and deprive them of parental rights. Such mothers are forcibly separated from their children. Babies who could live with a loving mother end up in shelters. Social and other services act in such cases based on discriminatory and outdated norms of Ukrainian legislation. (Drug Reporter, Ungarn, 28:45, engl. UT)