7 April 2009

UNODC Launches "Pro-health" Drug Campaign on World Health Day

VIENNA, 7 April (UN Information Service) - Today, on World Health Day, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched its global campaign against drugs. "Drug control is not just about security, it's about health. Drug dependence is an illness, and should be prevented and treated as such", said the Executive Director of UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa. UNODC's international drug campaign will run until 26 June 2009, which is World Drug Day (International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking). 

UNODC's 2009 campaign with the slogan "Do drugs control your life?" is being targeted at young people in order to encourage them to take care of their health and empower them not to take drugs. "Some people are pro-drugs, we are pro-health", said Mr. Costa. 

Around 200 million people take drugs at least once a year. Of these, 25 million are regarded as drug dependent. Every year, 200,000 people die from drug-related illnesses.

Young people are more susceptible to drug use. Prevalence of drug use among young people is more than twice as high as drug use among the general population; three times as high in the case of cannabis. "Much more needs to be done to provide young people with the skills, information and opportunities to lead healthy and fulfilling lives", said Mr. Costa.

The young are also more vulnerable to the effects of drug use. Because their brains are still developing, by taking drugs they are more at risk of memory loss, behavioural problems and even psychosis.  

"There is a lot of talk about legalizing drugs to stop crime. But making drugs more readily available would create a public health disaster and condemn a proportion of every generation to addiction", said Mr. Costa. "Governments do not need to choose between public health and public security - they should do both. On World Health Day - and everyday - governments should make health the first principle of drug control", said the head of UNODC. He urged governments to devote more resources to improve drug prevention, as well as for drug dependence treatment, care and reintegration into society.

"Drugs are a society-wide problem, so all of society needs to be part of the solution", said Mr. Costa, urging everyone to support the global campaign against drugs. The new youth-orientated branding for the 2009 campaign is available at the UNODC campaign website at: http://unodc.org/drugs. The campaign website will be developed and expanded over the coming months in the build-up to 26 June, World Drug Day. UNODC would like to encourage as many awareness-raising activities as possible around the globe and invites communities to participate actively.

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For press enquiries only:

Walter Kemp
Spokesman and Speechwriter, UNODC
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-5629
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629
Email: walter.kemp@unodc.org

For further information on the campaign:

Email: Marie-Therese.Kiriaky@unodc.org
Website: http://unodc.org/drugs