World Mental Health Day 2021: INCB calls on governments to ensure access to prevention and treatment services for drug use disorders and equitable availability of internationally controlled substances

VIENNA, 10 October 2021 - On World Mental Health Day 2021, the International Narcotics Control Board is highlighting that drug use disorders are a treatable mental health condition and is calling on governments to ensure access to evidence-based prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration services for all population groups affected by drug use.

In a series of thematic chapters in its Annual Reports for 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020, INCB has analysed drug use among young people, women and older persons and has set out recommendations for treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration for drug use disorders as essential components of drug demand reduction.

The Board urges governments to address the stigma associated with drug use and other barriers to accessing treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration services.  The treatment of drug dependence improves the physical and mental health of affected individuals and is considered as an element of the right to health. At the same time, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration services must be evidence-based and respect international human rights standards.

The theme of World Mental Health Day 2021 is "Mental health in an unequal world". INCB is emphasizing the importance of equitable availability of and access to medicines containing controlled substances used in the treatment of mental health conditions, including opiate substitution therapy.  

Low- and middle-income countries, and the most vulnerable populations, face a disproportionate burden from increasingly protracted conflicts, the impacts of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. The timely supply of controlled substances to these affected areas or emergency zones for medical use is crucial for alleviating mental stress and other forms of suffering.

INCB is working with Member States to address the inequitable availability of controlled substances, including through its INCB Learning programme, which is building the capacity of competent national authorities, as well as through the recent publication of " Lessons from countries and humanitarian aid organizations in facilitating the timely supply of controlled substances during emergency situations" and an INCB/UNODC/WHO joint statement on Access to Controlled Medicines in Emergencies.

In an unequal world, improving mental health care for all is key to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health and wellbeing for all at all times.

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