Access to Addiction Treatment is a Human Right

Only an intersectional approach can address the multiple forms of discrimination that communities have to face

'Leave No One Behind' campaign

With its new ‘Leave No One Behind’ campaign, Dianova launches a call to action to improve addiction services and have them adapted to the needs of ALL people – Image: Dianova

Editorial, by Gisela Hansen – 26 June marks the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, an important date that gives us an opportunity to reflect on the need to implement drug policies that promote, rather than undermine, the health and human rights of our communities. On this day, it is crucial to recognize that access to drug treatment is not only a public health issue but also a fundamental human right.

Current policies in many countries continue to criminalize drug use and perpetuate stigmatisation of people who may develop substance use disorders. This punitive approach is not only ineffective, but also deepens inequalities and the suffering of those affected. It is critical that we change this approach and adopt evidence-based policies that recognize the dignity and rights of all people.

Addiction treatment must be available to all, without discrimination. However, the reality is that many people are still left behind in accessing these services due to the stigma associated with drug use and the lack of an intersectional perspective in policy making, as well as in the design and implementation of treatment programmes. Stigma not only prevents people from seeking the help they need, but also affects the quality of care they receive.

Additional barriers to treatment

The lack of an intersectional approach to drug policy exacerbates these inequalities, making realities invisible and creating barriers to treatment. Women, LGBTQI+ people, older people, and young people with addiction problems, face additional barriers to accessing treatment due to the multiple discrimination they experience and the lack of a diversity lens that responds to multiple realities. Drug policies that do not take into account the intersections of people’s lives perpetuate inequalities and exclude those most in need of support.

This would not only reduce the burden on the justice system, but also allow people to seek help without fear of legal reprisals.

Second, we must ensure that addiction treatment services are accessible, affordable and of high quality for all people, regardless of their socio-economic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity or other personal characteristics. This requires significant investment in the public health system and the training of professionals to treat people with respect and dignity.

We must adopt an intersectional approach to all drug policies, recognizing and addressing the multiple forms of discrimination faced by communities.

In conclusion, 26 June is a day to remember the urgency of adopting drug policies that promote the health and human rights of our communities. Access to drug treatment is a human right and a public health issue that requires an approach based on evidence, inclusion and social justice.

Only through a paradigm shift in our policies and attitudes can we ensure that no one is left behind