People who use drugs are dying in increasing numbers. There are more than 200,000 drug-related deaths a year. Overdose deaths contribute to between a third and a half of all drug-related deaths. Last year, in the United States alone, overdose deaths exceeded 59,000. Overdose is the principal cause of death of North Americans younger than fifty years old. Not cancer; not heart attack or stroke; not vehicular accidents. Overdose. Avoidable overdose.
The vast majority of those who have died in the last several years have overdosed as a result of mistakenly taking fentanyl or carfentanyl instead of heroin and other opiates, with these newer, far stronger drugs increasingly being consumed due to the unregulated drug market under prohibition. Fentanyl is also causing increasing numbers of opiate overdoses and deaths throughout Europe and in other parts of the world. Meanwhile, young people have continued to die the world over as a result of toxic adulterants and contaminants being present in stimulants like MDMA and ecstasy, which are relatively very safe drugs when uncontaminated and when of known strength.
Why Are People who Use Drugs Dying?
These drug-related deaths are avoidable; resources, knowledge, information, education, and equipment exists to avoid these deaths. In the vast majority of cases, overdose deaths are due directly to criminalisation, prohibition, and social exclusion. Prohibition gives rise to a black market in which the composition and purity of drugs are unknown and cannot be determined. It is due to prohibition that people are overdosing and dying in record numbers when taking drugs they had not intended to use. Most overdoses occur in the presence of another person, but calling an ambulance and other medical assistance in a context of criminalisation often leads to police harassment, arrest, violence, and imprisonment.
To be delivered by Judy Chang, INPUD
“Thank you for giving me the floor.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.
I am speaking today on behalf of the Strategic Advisory Group to the United Nations on HIV and Drug Use, or the “SAG” as it is more commonly known. The SAG was established in 2014, and is comprised of representatives from UN agencies, donor governments, networks of people who use drugs, and civil society networks from around the world, all with a specific interest and focus on ensuring a scaled up and sustainable harm reduction response that is effective in preventing HIV transmission among people who inject drugs and is firmly rooted in the principles of human rights. As such, we welcome this thematic session on prevention, and want to highlight three main issues today.
Firstly, the SAG notes with grave concern the continued increase in HIV transmission amongst people who inject drugs. The 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS committed to reducing transmission of HIV among people who inject drugs by 50 percent by 2015. Yet, UNAIDS now estimate that the number of new cases amongst our community has risen from 114,000 in 2011 to 152,000 in 2015.
This is a 33% increase, during a period when governments committed to cut transmission in half.
June 30, 2017 Onwards
United Nations (UN) agencies, over 45 UN member states, the European Union, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and over 370 community and civil society organizations globally have condemned the war on drugs in the Philippines.
Two cases have been filed in the ICC for his crimes against humanity. However, such efforts and concerns were either mocked or openly challenged by Duterte.
“Is there no one, no entity that can stop Duterte? Does our humanity not demand we mobilise in anger?”
During the 25th International Harm Reduction Conference in Montreal, Canada, Senator Risa Hontiveros, a leading health advocate in the Philippines presented how the new administration has proposed a range of drug policy reforms that aims to strengthen Duterte’s crime and punishment approaches. As an alternative to his reforms, Senator Hontiveros has filed the “Public Health Intervention for Drug Use Act of 2017”, that would institutionalize life saving harm reduction policies. Watch the full video below:
Duterte must be stopped!
Shortly after being sworn into office on June 30, 2016, Durterte ramped up the war on drugs with a campaign called ‘OPLAN TOKHANG’ - a portmanteau of two words meaning ‘to knock’ and ‘to plead’. Suspected drug users and pushers were hunted at all hours; and mostly shot dead. Their corpses were mummified and displayed in the streets with placards reading “Pusher or drug user – don’t be like me” as a warning.
Statement from attributed members of the Bridging the Gaps Alliance following the conclusion of the 25th Harm Reduction International Conference in Montréal.
In an era of rising populism and heightened political repression around the world, communities most affected by HIV, including people who use drugs, sex workers, and LGBT people, with specific concern for transgender people, gay men and other men who have sex with men; are experiencing an escalation in state sanctioned violence fuelled by pervasive stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs, and divisive rhetoric about law, order and public health.
Since the 30th of June 2016, more than 7000 extrajudicial killings of people who use drugs have taken place under Duterte’s brutal drug war in the Philippines in an unconscionable spectacle of intimidation, humiliation and violence. Similarly in Indonesia, alarmist rhetoric has led to the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty for drug offences, in direct contravention of international law. Further, in recent months, thousands of foreign-born people who use drugs have been detained and deported in the U.S.; and people who use drugs are experiencing high levels of intimidation, torture and arrest in Cambodia as well as in Tanzania. These are a few of the many recent examples of state sanctioned campaigns against people who use drugs that have deleteriously impacted their health, safety, wellbeing and families.
The purported public health and safety justifications for anti-drug campaigns are always political. Violent and ideological leaders have, for decades, scapegoated, politicized and devalued the lives of people who use drugs to increase their own popularity. By contrast, time and again, public health, law enforcement and legal experts have demonstrated that decriminalisation actually alleviates the health and safety concerns of drug use and trade in our communities.
INPUD’s Strategy for 2017-2020 outlines how the organisation will build on past achievements and lessons learned to take the global network forward into the next phase of its development. Further, it sets out how the network will be strengthened to respond to the changing environment and to confront new political challenges.
The Strategy was developed following consultation with key stakeholders from UN and multilateral agencies, drugs civil society networks, key population networks, and INPUD members. INPUD’s Board Members and Secretariat came together at a five-day workshop in Delhi, India in December 2016 to review organisational progress and to define INPUD’s strategic priorities and pathways for 2017 to 2020.
The strategic planning process signalled a period of internal reflection for INPUD. This strategy was informed by the earlier work of two additional consultants who carried out an environmental scan and a network audit of the organisation.
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