For information only - not an official document

26 June 2018

International Narcotics Control Board: Message on International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

VIENNA, 26 June (UN Information Service) - The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is a reminder every year of the importance of the efforts being made around the world to prevent and alleviate the suffering caused by drug abuse and drug trafficking as well as of the importance of ensuring access to controlled substances for medical and scientific use.

The theme of the 2018 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is "Listen First" as the first step to healthy and safe communities. In this context, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) underlines the importance of "listening first" as a first step towards an effective therapeutic relationship between health workers and patients of drug use treatment centres based on sensitivity and empathy. INCB has devoted the thematic chapter of its 2017 Annual Report to treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration for drug use disorders as essential components of drug demand reduction. The stigma associated with drug use disorders remains one of the most significant impediments to the treatment of drug dependency and a major obstacle to social reintegration.

The need for treatment and rehabilitation largely outstrips the availability of services: only one out of six people in need of drug dependence treatment has access to treatment programmes. Even where treatment is available, it is often of poor quality and may not be delivered in accordance with international standards. To compound the situation, individuals around the world who use drugs experience stigma. This stigmatization not only seriously hinders their opportunities and access to treatment, but also affects their prospects for social reintegration. Listening first to people who approach treatment services and understanding their needs is of fundamental importance to overcome this problem. It is necessary to apply a comprehensive and holistic approach when assessing and addressing the needs of special populations, such as women, children, people in prisons, people affected by mental health disorders, migrants, refugees, ethnic minorities, and people engaged in sex work.

INCB would like to remind governments that alternatives to punishment and imprisonment, such as treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration, depending on the nature of the case, are possible under the provisions of the international drug control conventions. On this international day, INCB urges governments to place more emphasis on and to invest in treatment and rehabilitation services. Speaking on behalf of the Board, INCB President Viroj Sumyai said that "concern for the health and welfare of humankind is the cornerstone of the international drug control framework. Access to drug dependence treatment should be considered part of the right to health and as essential to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health and well-being".


The Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is an independent body, established by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, mandated to monitor and support governments' compliance with the three international drug control treaties. Its 13 members are elected by the Economic and Social Council to serve in their individual capacities for a term of five years.

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For further information, please contact:

INCB Secretariat
Tel.: (+43-1) 26060-4163
Email: incb.secretariat[at]