We have consensus Houston
Largely unreported in the mainstream media at the recently concluded 57th session of CND in Vienna were clear consensus statements on what science tells us today on drugs and harm reduction.27 Mar 2014
One group was chaired by Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the U.S. Her group focused on issues surrounding addiction and dependency and concluded unambiguously that people who use drugs cannot and should not be seen as criminals.
The second group was chaired by Michel Kazatchkine and provided a state of the art update on harm reduction science, including the following key points:
- The evidence that Needle Syringe Programs (NSP) and Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) are effective in reducing the sharing of injecting equipment and averting HIV infections is compelling. In combination with antiretroviral therapy (ART), they reduce HIV transmission, decrease mortality, reduce drug dependency, reduce crime and disorder and improve quality of life.
- Harm reduction is very cost effective.
- The incarceration of people who use drugs, criminalization of drug use, restrictive drug policies increase vulnerability to HIV and hepatitis C. We need to stop the incarceration of people who use drugs for minor non-violent drug offences. We need to reform laws and policies that hinder access to harm reduction and realign harm reduction and law enforcement to support prevention and treatment of HIV and Hepatitis C among people who inject drugs.
- Harm reduction for women should be tailored to meet their special needs including for reproductive health services.
- Hepatitis C is a rising cause of severe liver disease and premature death among people who inject drugs, and represents a growing public health, social and economic burden. Hepatitis C services need to be integrated into harm reduction services.