International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
Drug abuse is a global phenomenon. It effects almost every country, although its extent and characteristics differ from region to region. Drug abuse trends around the world, especially among youth, have started to converge over the last few decades.
The most widely consumed drug worldwide is cannabis. Three-quarters of all countries report abuse of heroin and two-thirds report abuse of cocaine. Drug-related problems include increased rates of crime and violence, susceptibility to HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, demand for treatment and emergency room visits and a breakdown in social behaviour.
Demand reduction strategies seek to prevent the onset of drug use, help drug users break the habit and provide treatment through rehabilitation and social reintegration.
The General Assembly in 1987 decided to observe 26 June as the International Day
against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking as an expression of its determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse. It took that action on 7 December 1987 (resolution 42/112
), following a recommendation of the 1987 International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which, on 26 June, had adopted the Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug Abuse Control.
Let's talk about drugs...
"Let's talk about drugs" underlines the need for children, families, peers, teachers and communities to talk about drug abuse, admit that it is a problem, and take responsibility for doing something about it. The support of caring and listening parents has proven to be one of the most important protective factors against drug abuse. But for the many young people around the world who do not have the advantage of a supportive home environment, we all have a special responsibility.
Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General
UNODC's "Let's talk about drugs …" campaign encourages parents, grandparents, other relatives, teachers, peers, etc., to talk to children and young people about the dangers of drug use and to get them more involved in open discussions about drugs.
Every year, a theme is established and thousands of people around the world are mobilized through UNODC's field office network to celebrate the day.
1998: Youth Uniting to Prevent Drug Abuse
1999: Music against Drugs
2000: Facing Reality: Denial, Corruption and Violence
2001: Sports against Drugs
2002: Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS
2003: Let's talk about drugs …
What is drug abuse?
People have taken psychoactive drugs for curative, religious and recreational purposes for hundreds of years. At the end of the last century, however, due to advances in the field of chemistry and pharmacology, stronger and highly addictive substances such as cocaine and heroin were synthesized. In addition, the invention of hypodermic syringes enabled people to inject these drugs, making their effects more powerful and the risk of addiction more serious. Against this background and the risk of widespread abuse, the first international controls were instituted following the Opium Commission in Shanghai in 1909.
Substances of abuse
A psychoactive substance is any substance that people take to change either the way they feel, think, or behave. This includes alcohol and tobacco as well as natural and manufactured drugs. In the past, most drugs were made from plants, such as the coca bush for cocaine, opium poppies for heroin and cannabis for hashish or marijuana. Now drugs such as Ecstasy or LSD are produced by synthesizing various chemicals. Drugs of abuse fall into three categories: depressants (e.g. heroin, barbiturates), stimulants (e.g. cocaine, crack, amphetamines) and hallucinogens (e.g. marijuana, Ecstasy, LSD), and are either ingested, inhaled, smoked, injected or snorted.
are sedatives that act on the nervous system. They provide artificial relaxation and relief from anxiety and mental stress but tend to produce psychological dependence; withdrawal from heavy use is severe.
are agents that activate, enhance, or increase activity of the central nervous system. They include amphetamines and synthetic appetite suppressants such as phenmetrazine or methylphenidate. Stimulants can give rise to symptoms suggestive of intoxication, including tachycardia, pupillary dilation, elevated blood pressure and nausea or vomiting. They can also cause violent and aggressive behaviour, agitation and impaired judgement. A full-blown delusional psychosis may occur.
are chemically diverse and produce profound mental changes such as euphoria, anxiety, sensory distortion, vivid hallucinations, delusion, paranoia and depression. They include mescaline and LSD.
Drugs can be harmful in a number of ways, both through immediate effects and through damage to health over time. Even occasional use of marijuana affects cognitive development and short-term memory. In addition, the effects of marijuana on perception, reaction and coordination of movements can result in accidents.
(such as LSD) distort perceptions, alter heart-rate and blood pressure and, in the long term, cause neurological disorders, depressions, anxiety, visual hallucinations and flashbacks.
cause tremors, headaches, hypertension and increased heart-rate. Long-term effects include nausea, insomnia, loss of weight, convulsions and depression.
use initially results in nausea, slow respiration, dry skin, itching, slow speech and reflexes. Over a long period of time there is a serious risk of developing physical and psychological dependence, which can result in acute overdose and even death due to respiratory depression.
There is a tendency to present some drugs (such as
) as less harmful than they actually are, without taking into consideration their long-term consequences and the effects they have on adolescent development, particularly on the development of certain critical functions (cognitive ability and capacity to memorize). Ecstasy has been presented as having little or no side effects, but studies show that its use alters, perhaps permanently, certain brain functions and also damages the liver and other body organs.
Although not regarded as illicit, inhalants are widely abused, especially by disadvantaged youth. Some of these volatile substances, which are present in many products such as glue, paint, gasoline and cleaning fluids, are directly toxic to the liver, kidney or heart, and some produce progressive brain degeneration.
The major problem with psychoactive drugs is that when people take them, they focus on the desired mental and emotional effects and ignore the potentially damaging physical and mental side effects that can occur. No illicit drug can be considered "safe". In one way or another, the use of psychoactive substances alters the normal functioning of the human body, and in the long run they can cause serious damage.