The UN’s World Drug Day on June 26th is also the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. While coincidental, the conjunction is unfortunately apt. Across the world, whether as a result of police apprehension, diversion to treatment as an alternative to incarceration, or involuntary commitment under health statutes or at the request of family members, people who use drugs are subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading practices, many of which rise to the level of torture. These breaches of international law are often conducted in the name of law enforcement or in facilities run by police or military personnel; this highlights the difficulty, and importance, of protecting the rights of criminalised groups in state custody, of whom drug users are almost always the most numerous. Because the so-called health services are so often abusive detention by another name, honest examination of what has been allowed to pass as drug treatment requires that we challenge the notion of “treatment failure,” examining treatment systems more closely rather than unreflectively attributing blame to the individuals within them.
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