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UN Report Slams Cruel Drug Treatment as "Torture"

Compulsory "treatment" for drug addiction in some parts of the world is "tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," according to report last month from the UN's special rapporteur on torture and other degrading treatments and punishments. The report was delivered to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Vienna.

drug "rehabilitation center," Vietnam (
Authored by Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez, the report takes special aim at forced "rehabilitation centers" for drug users. Such centers are typically found in Southeast Asian states, such as Vietnam and Thailand, as well as in some countries in the former Soviet Union. But the report also decries the lack of opiate substitution therapies in confinement setting and bemoans the lack of access to effective opioid pain treatment in large swathes of the world.

"Compulsory detention for drug users is common in so-called rehabilitation centers," Mendez wrote. "Sometimes referred to as drug treatment centers or 'reeducation through labor' centers or camps, these are institutions commonly run by military or paramilitary, police or security forces, or private companies. Persons who use, or are suspected of using, drugs and who do not voluntarily opt for drug treatment and rehabilitation are confined in such centers and compelled to undergo diverse interventions."

The victims of such interventions face not only drug withdrawal without medical assistance, but also "state-sanctioned beatings, caning or whipping, forced labor, sexual abuse, and intentional humiliation," as well as "flogging therapy," "bread and water therapy," and forced electroshock treatments, all in the name of rehabilitation.

As Mendez notes, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Office on Drug Control (UNODC) have determined that "neither detention nor forced labor have been recognized by science as treatment for drug use disorders." Such forced detentions, often with no legal or medical evaluation or recourse, thus "violate international human rights law and are illegitimate substitutes for evidence-based measures, such as substitution therapy, psychological interventions and other forms of treatment given with full, informed consent."

Such centers continue to operate despite calls to close them from organizations including the WHO, the UNODC, and the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. And they are often operating with "direct or indirect support and assistance from international donors without adequate human rights oversight."

Drug users are "a highly stigmatized and criminalized population" who suffer numerous abuses, including denial of treatment for HIV, deprivation of child custody, and inclusion in drug registries where their civil rights are curtailed. One form of ill-treatment and "possibly torture of drug users" is the denial of opiate substitute therapy, "including as a way of eliciting criminal confessions through inducing painful withdrawal symptoms."

The denial of such treatments in jails and prisons is "a violation of the right to be free from torture and ill-treatment," Mendez noted, and should be considered a violation in non-custodial settings as well. "By denying effective drug treatment, state drug policies intentionally subject a large group of people to severe physical pain, suffering and humiliation, effectively punishing them for using drugs and trying to coerce them into abstinence, in complete disregard of the chronic nature of dependency and of the scientific evidence pointing to the ineffectiveness of punitive measures."

The rapporteur also noted with chagrin that 5.5 billion people, or 83% of the planet's population, live in areas "with low or no access to controlled medicines and have no access to treatment for moderate to severe pain." While most of Mendez' concern is directed at the developing world, he also notes that "in the United States, over a third of patients are not adequately treated for pain."

Mendez identified obstacles to the availability of opioid pain medications as "overly restrictive drug control regulations," as well as misinterpretation of those regulations, deficiencies in supply management, lack of concern about palliative care, and "ingrained prejudices" about using such medications.

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Sounds Familiar

As Mendez notes, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Office on Drug Control (UNODC) have determined that "neither detention nor forced labor have been recognized by science as treatment for drug use disorders."

Sounds like they're talking about (and condemning) the US of A, where our standard treatment for drug use disorders is incarceration.  Maybe there's hope for the UN after all.

BTW, the headline should be: "UN Slams USA's Drug Treatment Policies as Torture".

not spam: excellent blog

I'm not spam; I actually think the article is an important piece of journalism, thanks.  (Unlike oneday above, seems to me.  One shouldn't spam over such a profound topic, it is inhuman.)  Torture is profoundly wrong, George Bush showed us how many Americans couldn't care less.  Wait till they get their nuts in a vice!

Good Job DEA

Good Job DEA. This happens from your influence. "CLAP CLAP CLAP"... DEA you need to go.

Solution Possibility

How many M.O.A.B. , Daisy Cutter and JDAM bombs would it take to fix this depravity ? Cruise Missile heads , loaded with 12 + nuclear  " darts " , with a 5 mile diameter blast zone , could also be a fix .  The human population on Earth in 2013 is still a clusterfuck of delusion . How long before this type of activity begins to take place in the good `ol U.S.A. ?? Or does it already ?

IN BC,twice

That's how many times government here has tried to put forward progroms to detain,indefinitely ,all opiate users.The idea was to make addiction itself a crime.A person could be held until cured or forever.Lorne Mayencourt,one of the authors is currently in a jackpot for authoring a progrom to hustle ethnic votes with government money.Good ideas come from good people.I personally attended every meeting with a group that was able to close meetings down just by showing up.The one time we spoke we had them running for the exits.It was pure fascism.The UN began to change it's tune after the Vienna conventions.There was only one small but very vocal group from(wait for it)the USA that claimed the drug war was the way to go and should be stood firm on.The entire rest of the world disagreed.Some more than others.Some did not bother to attend.

Normally I agree but....

I beg to differ on the last statement made by Mr. Mendez in suggesting that "overly restrictive drug policies" are resulting in inadequate pain management even in the United States.  In my work in psychiatric emergency services and in providing treatment for addictions,even in my own experience in going to the ER after a bad skateboard fall,  I have observed the opposite of which he describes, in that I feel narcotic pain meds are too easily prescribed.  I have a fairly high tolerance for pain, and even though I didn't ask for anything for the pain I was readily given Vicodin and tramadol for pain.  the addictions that result from these pain meds are vicious and persistent, often are part of suicide attempts.  Personally I'm in favor of legalizing marijuana and using that more for pain management than these physically addictive substances that have the potential for lethal overdose where cannabis does not carry these risks. 

My observations and source of income differ...

I don't make my money working in two professional fields identified as implementers of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. I'm old enough to have been an adult before enactment of the Controlled Substances Act (and the various state level UCSAs) and able to make some comparison with the two decades before and the many decades since. I am a low income, working class member of a minority religion which believes denial of access to food, water, shelter or medicine are sins. The latter being something I no longer dare to say to any doctor/health care provider I see. For well over 40 years my observations and experiences have pretty consistently been that appropriate access to appropriate medicines has been declining in the United States. This includes a full range from relatively minor annoyances to potentially fatal lack of access to medicine in the United States. The abuses I have observed or experienced are so numerous and varied I won't attempt to choose illustrative examples. Arbitrary, capricious, misinformed or intentionally evil and/or corrupt restrictions and barriers to medicine have increased enormously while liberty and freedom of choice have decreased. Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment has increased enormously within the field of medicine as well as outside it. The CSA has spawned a thoroughly entrenched oppressive state religion although this ideology is not openly acknowledged as a state religion. Similarity to the Holy Inquisition is increasingly obvious and the field of medicine has become a largely willing enforcement arm of this state religion.


Even though it is not NEARLY as harsh as described above - "flogging therapy, etc" - it was nonetheless more pain that I could tolerate when I went to a simple "Detox" center in British Columbia [Canada]. They offered nothing to help me with my withdrawal pains, nor with the pains I was initially prescribed morphine for.

  The reason I went is because the doctors here are under pressure from their "College" to prescribe less opiates [and more of the other pharmaceutical drugs] and they were cutting my prescription down. Increases have been the norm for 100 years, not decreases.... constant decreases over a year and a half was also very agonising!!

 In the Detox, I was writhing and moaning despite trying to not bother my roommates. "Have a warm bath" was the only suggestion - none of the nurses on duty would even talk to me. So, I left after 30 hours.

  Now the College is at it again - "reduce the opiates, increase the other pharmaceuticals" - based on supposed opiate addicts dying from opiates taken as prescribed - in reality, the only deaths have been when the COMBINATION  of opiates and other prescriptions were given!!

 What a load of crap the College is peddling.

By denying effective drug

By denying effective drug treatment, state drug policies intentionally subject a large group of people to severe physical pain, suffering and humiliation, effectively punishing them for using drugs and trying to coerce them into abstinence, in complete disregard of the chronic nature of dependency and of the scientific evidence pointing to the ineffectiveness of punitive measures

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