UNODC Executive Director’s Message | International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking 2023


United Nations

Office on Drugs and Crime



UNODC Executive Director’s Message

International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking 2023

Drugs can cause illness and death, waste years of healthy life, and propagate violence, harm, and exploitation.

Those who are affected by drug use disorders are not the perpetrators of these problems. They are the victims.

According to UNODC’s World Drug Report 2023, the latest data indicate that globally, 296 million people used drugs in a single year, while more than 39 million of them suffered from drug use disorders.

On this International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, we are calling for drug responses that are rooted in empathy, built on science and focused on people.

People who suffer from drug use disorders, but are blamed and stigmatized instead of receiving treatment and care.

People who inject drugs and are far more likely to be living with HIV, but face stigma, discrimination and barriers to treatment.

People who are imprisoned for minor drug offences, rather than being given a pathway to recovery and rehabilitation.


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People who are punished for resorting to illicit cultivation of drugs out of desperation, instead of being offered alternatives for a sustainable livelihood.

People who continue to suffer pain because of unequal availability of important medicines containing controlled substances.

And people who are denied their rights, dignity, and opportunities in life because they use or have used drugs.

It is time to stigmatize the illicit drug market, and not the people who are harmed by it.

We need humane responses that discard outdated attitudes and focus on the health and wellbeing of people and communities affected by drugs.

We need focused law enforcement interventions to stop drug traffickers from feeding on misery, as several drug types hit new production records and the threat of synthetic drugs expands rapidly.

And we need to invest heavily in prevention, awareness-raising, early interventions and services, to build the resilience of our communities.

Today, let us stand together against the world drug problem, and put people first.

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