On the 1st of November was International Drug Users’ Day, where the global community of people who use drugs came together to celebrate their history and affirm their rights. Twelve years ago today INPUD was formally launched on International Drug Users’ Day by drug user rights activists seeking to create an international platform where members of our community could confidently and proudly advocate for the health and human rights of people who use drugs globally. Every year since, we have marked this day with a celebration of our diverse, vibrant communities’ accomplishments, while also acknowledging our work is more critical than ever.
This year’s International Drug Users’ Day comes amidst a time of global uncertainty and upheaval. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the injustices caused by drug criminalisation, laying bare the fragility of our health systems, economies, and political institutions. Since the implementation of lockdown measures in March 2020 people who use drugs have faced major disruptions to the essential harm reduction services we rely on. This is especially troubling in countries and regions where such services were already sparse or non-existent, once again putting the responsibility of protecting people who use drugs solely on the shoulders of the community. Movement restrictions have disrupted the global supply chain of essential supplies and made it harder than ever for people who use drugs to travel to their harm reduction services. Additionally, the supply of drugs has been limited or cut off entirely in some areas forcing people into involuntary withdrawal. While some communities have been able to adapt to the delivery of services, others have struggled to do so in the absence of state support or funding for peer-led networks. Throughout all this the resurgent Black Lives Matter movement has brought renewed focus to the global function of drug criminalisation as a mechanism of state-sanctioned violence against Black, Indigenous, immigrant and other minority communities.