The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, and the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, presented the report The Drug Problem in the Americas today to high-level health authorities of the Region of the Americas who will be participating in PAHO’s 52nd Directing Council in Washington, D.C., that concludes 4 October.
Dr. Etienne noted that drug use is a significant public health problem in the Region, adding that all sectors of society should work together in a coordinated fashion to confront the problem and that the public health sector can work to “increase access to health services” for people who have drug-related problems.
The PAHO Director thanked the OAS for sharing the report, prepared with PAHO support, and pointed out that the Organization has recognized the need to address the drug issue since 2010, when Member States approved a regional strategy on substance use, and that it has been working closely with the countries on this issue since that time.
In his remarks, Secretary General Insulza referred to statements that the delegations of Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico presented to the recent United Nations General Assembly. These countries noted that in facing the global drug problem, internationally accepted policies need to be evaluated, with an eye toward applying the ones that are the most effective from the standpoint of health, human rights, and reduction of harm. Insulza concluded that prevention strategies are critical to the reduction of harm and social violence.
The OAS Secretary General noted that addressing the drug issue will require unique approaches that may vary from country to country. He expressed his view that the problem calls for a comprehensive health approach in which those with addiction problems should receive proper and adequate treatment, while he cautioned that the magnitude of violence caused by drug trafficking and drug use itself are separate issues requiring different response strategies.
Representatives of the Region’s ministers of health expressed their agreement that the drug problem is also a public health problem and reiterated that addressing it requires a multisectoral approach.