Side event: Psychoactive substances and the SDGs – Towards a comprehensive approach in the era of the 2030 Agenda

Organized by the Government of Slovenia, Utrip Institute for Research and Development, the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe and IOGT International.

Ministry of Health, Slovenia: (…)

Ministry of Health, Kenya: Illicit drug trafficking and abuse remains a challenge to development in Kenya. The devastating effect of drug abuse cuts across sectors: health, education, food security, housing. Heroin, cocaine, cannabis, shisha and prescription drugs are abused. Kenya focuses on supply suppression, demand reduction and cooperation. The country’s strategy is informed by the three conventions we have ratified and the 2030 Agenda. Our programmes are based on SDG 3, especially treating prevention and treatment. To achieve UHC, we will have to fight organised drug abuse. We have a national focal point for a campaign against alcohol and drug abuse (NACADA). Through prevention, advocacy, policy development, research, treatment and rehabilitation programmes and execution of relevant national statutes. NACADA works closely with relevant international bodies, public sector and civil society, guided by the Conventions. NACADA coordinates the antidrug strategy bringing all arms of the government in drug prevention and control. Kenya has a drug prevention strategy to target, promote health, welfare and wellbeing of all individuals, communities and society as a whole as part of a balanced approach. Evidence based programmes, targeting schools families and communities have been implemented. Issues of prevention of drug use have been part of the public sector. Workplace committees to advance prevention, education and treatment have been implemented including social reintegration. The country has engaged the media to educate the public on the dangers of drug abuse; we have also rolled out a programme targeting youth and the general public. Trainings and certification of addiction counsellors to enhance the country’s technical capacity. Treatment and rehabilitation: people with drug use disorders can access services to facilitate their reintegration. Two levels of government with constitutionally defined laws. The treatment and rehabilitation law has the role of policy framework. The Minister of Health has provided a treatment protocol and NACADA inspects facilities to ensure compliance. Facilities own by the government and private sector. Methadone-assisted therapy clinics. UNODC has helped us with technical and financial support. To enhance access to treatment, we work with county government to establish centres. Engagement is ongoing to ensure addiction treatment and rehabilitation centres are accessible to all. Several challenges: inadequate resources for prevention and drug abuse mitigation, the link between drugs and crime/terrorism, insufficient treatment and rehabilitation facilities.

Pompidou Group: The Group is the Council of Europe drug cooperation platform. Intergovernmental body to uphold core values of the CoE. Promotes a balanced approach in drug use and illicit trafficking. Supporting demand and supply reduction. Open debate, exchange over experiences and a platform for science and evidence based innovation. Policy, research and practice all linked. Strategy and cooperation towards the SDGs is one of the thematic priorities of the Pompidou Group. Prevention targeting youth is our focus for the next years. Successfully implemented, the European Drug Prevention Prize, awarded every two years to innovative prevention projects led by young people for young people. Highlights excellent projects that have proved successful in practice involving young people in prevention work. Encourages development of prevention where young people actively participate. Involvement of young people improvise the possibility of successful drug prevention. (…)

National Institute of Public Health Slovenia: Mental health is fundamental for general health and quality of life. 20% adolescents suffer from MH problems. And it seems to increase. Anxiety and depression disorders. Almost ½ of all mental health problems are established by age 14. Many aren’t recognised or treated. Investment in mental health in adolescents is important. To strengthen mental health, medical treatment is not enough. Prevention and promotion programmes are needed but not all are effective. Focus on improving the quality of life, establishing supporting environments, providing emotional, social and problem solving skills, etc. On the latter, we have a programme called “This is Me”, 10 steps to better self-esteem. This is led by teachers and intended for young people 13-17 years old. WE evaluated the efforts of the programme and there’s good effects on individual and classroom levels. The second part is web-based; an online counselling service for all adolescents with a simple, fast, free and anonymous expert advice for information. Medical doctors, psychologists, social workers, teachers; all volunteers; answer 3000 questions every year. About 2% questions about drugs, mostly marijuana.

IOGT International: We are not changing our behaviour to reach the SDGs so happy that we can talk about how prevention reduces the world drug problem and contributes to the Agenda 2030. We’re a global organisation for evidence based measures and community based approaches to reduce harm related to alcohol and other drugs. 134 organisations in 56 countries. Working at grassroots level. Based on that, I’m sharing this experience and analysis. Alcohol is an obstacle to development, specifically to reaching 13/30 SDGs. I’ll focus on narcotic drugs. Our analysis suggests the narcotic drugs are an obstacle to eradicating poverty. People who use drugs represent a bigger burden to the economic and financial situation. With regard to Goal 3, achieving health and wellbeing to all people, narcotic drugs are not only an obstacle to the health of individuals but also to those who don’t use drugs. Drug use is an obstacle to quality education and employment of children, youth and adolescents. Two dimensions: people who use drugs have bigger problems to achieve education and employment, but children carry the burden of drug problems in the family. Parents cannot offer care and education as they should. In terms of the fifth goal, on gender equality, women have a bigger burden because of the structural arrangement of gender inequality in general. Women because of the exposure of inequalities are self medicating, exposed to gender based violence that is drug related, treatment provision is poorer. Goal 10: poorer people pay a higher price for the world drug problem. It’s obvious countries want to invest in prevention, but they need to do so more. Good to mention that 1 dollar invested in prevention brings back 10 dollars that reduce harm.

Utrip: The prevention of health and social problems are important for any nation. Health is linked to raising incomes. But prevention does not only mean drug prevention. Many programmes up to date focus on one risk behaviour. We should focus on multiple risk behaviours. Icelandic model not focused on an individual approach, which has short-term effects. Evidence-based, community and dialogue between research and policymakers. Individual’s choice is influenced by all these environments concerning them. Nobody gets up in the morning and says “today I’ll use drugs”. It’s many factors. Wonderful results. If we look at teenage health, obesity and mental health, not so good. But learning experience. Briefly on the challenges: prevention is not considered a science. In other aspects, when new knowledge is presented, the new finding is questions; but in this field, people are reluctant to change. We have a lot of documentation and guidelines and standards to focus on. NGOs are chasing money, living day to day from grant to grant, it is not easy. Only 3 percent of the money into health goes to prevention. The Icelandic model offers long-term contracts to ensure sustainability. Other challenges: education, people working in the field have reported about skills and knowledge they need. There are no formal education programmes for prevention programmes. So we ask to focus on formalisation. And other challenges, small coverage of evidence-based prevention programmes, with little visibility. Prevention platform to address challenge: advocacy, community mobilisation, education and interventions (more educated professionals and more coverage), monitoring and evaluation. Focus on “what works”.

Youth against alcohol and drug dependency: Zimbabwe doesn’t have dedicated laws on prevention and treatment. The current legislation on drug use, the Dangerous drugs act. Zimbabwe should consider a holistic drug policy that is evidence based, and based on public health human rights. Rehabilitation options are privately run. Drug use is heavily criminalised and frowned upon, so people suffer in silence. There’s a weak civil society that struggles to push for progressive drug policy. We enlist the participation of civil society, media, government, as well as regional and international organisations. We hold meetings with other civil society organisations with convergent interests. (…)

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