For information only - not an official document

7 April 2021


Message by the President of the International Narcotics Control Board Cornelis P. de Joncheere on World Health Day 2021

VIENNA, 7 April (United Nations Information Service) - World Health Day 2021 focuses on the need to build a fairer, healthier world. In support of this, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is stressing the urgent need to ensure the availability of internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes.  

INCB estimates that 92 per cent of morphine is consumed in high-income countries by only 17 per cent of the world population. In contrast, 75 per cent of the world population - mainly in low- and middle-income countries - has limited or no access to proper pain relief. The increase in the use of synthetic opioids in several high-income countries, associated with overconsumption and an overdose crisis in some countries, has not been accompanied by an increase in the use of affordable morphine in low- and middle-income countries.

An estimated four out of five people in low- and middle-income countries who need mental, neurological or substance abuse treatment do not receive it. Despite an increasing number of people living with anxiety disorders and epilepsy, the majority of countries report that the availability of some essential psychotropic substances used to treat these conditions has declined over the past decade. Furthermore, the gap between countries with the lowest and highest reported rates of consumption of psychotropic substances widened between 2012 and 2016. Medication-assisted treatment services for opioid dependence are either not accessible or not sufficiently available in all countries where there is a significant population of people who inject drugs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further challenged the availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes and the delivery of treatment services for people with mental health problems and substance use disorders. The mental health impact of the pandemic is yet to be fully seen, and evidence-based prevention and treatment services must be stepped up to stem an increase in drug use disorders and mental health conditions.

In the INCB Annual Report 2020, INCB urged Governments to ensure the continued provision of treatment services for mental health and substance use disorders as part of essential services. The report also makes recommendations to Governments to improve the availability of and access to controlled substances for licit purposes, while preventing diversion to illicit channels and abuse.

Through the INCB Learning programme, and in cooperation with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, INCB is supporting governments to improve the availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes. INCB's GRIDS Programme supports governments in addressing trafficking in dangerous, non-scheduled substances, including synthetic opioids.

INCB is committed to supporting governments in their implementation of the three international drug control conventions, which share as their ultimate objective the promotion of the health and welfare of humankind. We have a shared responsibility to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all.


INCB is the independent, quasi-judicial body charged with promoting and monitoring Government compliance with the three international drug control conventions: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Established by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the thirteen members of the Board are elected in a personal capacity by the Economic and Social Council for terms of five years.

* *** *

For further information, please contact:

INCB Secretariat
Tel.: (+43-1) 26060-4163
Email: incb.secretariat[at]

©1995-2023 International Narcotics Control Board