‘Aspirational’ treatment standards published by WHO and UNODC

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A revised edition of the International standards for the treatment of drug use disorders has been published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). All UN member states have signed up to the document, which incorporates the results of extensive field testing.

Originally published in 2016, the aim of the document is to ‘develop and expand effective, evidence-based and ethical treatment for drug use disorders’, with the updated version containing input from service user and advocacy groups. The publication stresses the importance of joint working with health, social care, criminal justice and housing bodies, as well provision across community, in-patient and residential rehab settings. It also promotes the use of evidence-based interventions, provision of trauma-informed women-only services and the importance of using non-stigmatising language.

While the standards are ‘aspirational’ and national or local treatment systems need not attempt to meet the recommendations ‘all at once’, over time ‘progressive quality improvement with evidence-based and ethical practice as an objective, can and should be expected to achieve better organised, more effective and ethical systems and services’, it says.

‘A remarkable achievement’, says Annette Dale-Perera, who was ‘honoured’ to work on the 2020 version.

‘UNODC and WHO invite those responsible for local or national policy development, planning, funding, delivery and monitoring, and for the evaluation of treatment for drug use disorders, to measure up local systems and services for the treatment of such disorders against the standards,’ the document states. ‘The aim is to identify gaps and areas that fall short of the standards and work with the appropriate stakeholders’ to improve them.

‘All 192 UN member states have signed up to this document,’ said Annette Dale-Perera, who was ‘honoured’ to work on the 2020 version. ‘This is a remarkable achievement, given their different views.’

Available to download here

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