26 June – International Day against Drug Use and Illicit Trafficking

26 June, 2024

Message from Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General

“The focus should be on rehabilitation rather than punishment and imprisonment for minor drug offences”.

Tens of millions of people suffer from a substance use disorder. Less than a fifth receive treatment.

Drug users are doubly victimised: by the harmful effects of drugs themselves and by the stigma and discrimination they face.

People who use drugs often face significant barriers to treatment and even health services for infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Meanwhile, drug traffickers continue to exploit drug users and rapidly increase the production of dangerous, highly addictive synthetic drugs.

This year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking focuses on the need to put people first, end stigma and discrimination and strengthen prevention.

This means emphasising reintegration rather than punishment and imprisonment for minor drug offences.

It means defending the human rights of people who use drugs, including by expanding prevention and treatment programmes and health services.

It means protecting people and communities by ending impunity for drug traffickers who profit from human suffering.

Above all, it means governments leading the way. When I was Prime Minister of Portugal, we introduced non-criminal measures for the possession of drugs for personal use, while cracking down on traffickers and reallocating resources to prevention, treatment and harm reduction.

As a result, drug use and rates of related infectious diseases plummeted, police and customs seized more drugs and, most importantly, lives were saved. Today, Portugal has one of the lowest rates of overdoses and drug-related deaths in Europe.

As a global community, let us continue our work to end drug use, drug trafficking and the stigma associated with drug use.

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