Around the world, governments commit flagrant and widespread human rights violations against people who use drugs, often in the name of "treating" them for drug dependence. Suspected drug users are subject to arbitrary, prolonged detention and, once inside treatment centers, abuses that may rise to the level of torture. In many countries, military and police force people who use drugs into treatment without any medical assessment, and then rely on chains and locked doors to keep them there. Drug users who voluntarily seek medical help are sometimes unaware of the nature or duration of the treatment they will receive. In fact, treatment can include detention for months or years without judicial oversight, beatings, isolation, and addition of drug users’ names to government registries that deprive them of basic social protections and subject them to future police surveillance and violence.
Mechanisms to force people who use drugs into treatment, and the methods of treatment used, are rarely documented. United Nations or national assessments of drug dependence treatment frequently report numbers of those treated without additional detail about the nature or quality of what constitutes “treatment.” The accounts below, drawn from published literature and from those who have passed through treatment in Asia and the former Soviet Union, detail the range of abuses practiced in the name of drug dependence treatment, and suggest the need for reform on grounds of health and human rights.