With around 275 million people using psychoactive drugs during the year 2020 and an expected rise by 11% worldwide and 40% in Africa alone by the year 2030, and with an estimated 36 million people with drug use disorders,4 the scope of public health problems related to drug use, drug use disorders and related health conditions continues to be very high. However, this burden is to a large extent preventable. According to the latest WHO estimates, around 583 000 deaths were directly and indirectly attributable to drug use in the year 2019, with close to 450 000 deaths attributable to opioids, and around 14 000 to cannabis. Injecting drug use accounts for an estimated 20% of HIV infections outside sub-Saharan Africa5 and, according to WHO’s latest progress report on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, contributes significantly to the epidemics of hepatitis B and hepatitis C in all regions. Close to 600 000 people have died from opioid overdoses in the United States of America since 1999; the overdose mortality rate exceeds the mortality rate for HIV/AIDS at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. At the same time, opioid analgesics and psychotropic medicines under international control are indispensable for the provision of essential health care services, including for palliative care, pain management and treatment of mental, neurological and substance use disorders.