UNODC Discussion Paper - From coercion to cohesion: treating drug dependence through healthcare, not punishment

29 April 2010

The aim of this draft discussion paper, “From coercion to cohesion: Treating drug dependence through healthcare, not punishment”, is to promote a health-oriented approach to drug dependence. The International Drug Control Conventions give Member States the flexibility to adopt such an approach. Treatment offered as alternative to criminal justice sanctions has to be evidence-based and in line with ethical standards. This paper outlines a model of referral from the criminal justice system to the treatment system that is more effective than compulsory treatment, which results in less restriction of liberty, is less stigmatising and offers better prospects for the future of the individual and the society. Drug dependence treatment without the consent of the patient should only be considered a short-term option of last resort in some acute emergency situations and needs to follow the same ethical and scientific standards as voluntary-based treatment. Human rights violations carried out in the name of “treatment” are not compliant with this approach.