New information on the resources dealing with the prevention and treatment of drug and alcohol abuse is now available for 147 countries in a new World Health Organization (WHO) information system. In the past, drug dependence had been discriminated and not seen as a major health concern, subsequently the majority of people did not get the treatment they needed.
When somebody is drug dependent it means that he or she has a compulsive need to use the drug, which can be either an illegal or prescription medication, otherwise they feel that they cannot function properly. To overcome the disorder, users must receive proper treatment and professional help - otherwise the withdrawal symptoms will dramatically raise their risk of a relapse.
Most have no access to treatmentDr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, WHO, said:
"Drug dependence is a disorder that can be treated effectively but, unfortunately, the large majority of persons who need it do not have access to treatment. The data presented in the new system illustrate the huge gaps that still exist in the area of drug dependence treatment.
But more and more countries realize the benefits of treatment for drug and alcohol dependence, not only for the individuals themselves, but also for the society and the economy."
In the year 2010, nearly 230 million adults from 15 to 64 years of age, or 5 percent of the adult population, tried an illegal drug at least once. Twenty seven million of them had a severe drug problem.
Information on funding, staff and servicesWHO has a database which includes information on 88% of the planet's population regarding funding, staff, and services; called Resources for the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders, it is part of the WHO Global Health Observatory Database. Below are some highlighted data from the database (information refers to the whole world in general):
- There are 1.7 beds per 100,000 population available for the treatment of drug and alcohol use disorders. (More details)
- 30% of countries have methadone and buprenorphine available for patients requiring maintenance treatment for opioid dependence. (More details)
- 9% of all nations worldwide have routine screening and brief interventions for alcohol use and alcohol use disorders in primary health care. (More details)
"The availability of drug dependence treatment lags well behind treatment and care offered for other diseases according to our data. For example, only 45 percent of the assessed countries are able to provide essential medicines to treat the dependence on heroin and other opiates and in almost half of the countries where treatment is available not more than one in 5 persons with drug use disorders benefit from the services. A quarter of the countries which identify opiates as the main drug problem do not offer the range of medications recommended by WHO."
Alcohol consumption per capita (WHO: 2008)
Low-cost and effective treatments are availableIt is important for people to know that there are effective low-cost medicines available to help them with drug dependence. Standardized psychological therapies can also be helpful in getting people back on their feet. Therapy has several aims: to reduce distress, harm to oneself or others, and improve quality of life for the future.
Heroin dependence is an example of a drug use disorder that has been treated with these effective low-cost methods. Heroin is a dangerously addictive narcotic derived from morphine. Targeted treatment has been highly successful in reducing HIV infection due from needle-sharing, crime, and the risk of overdosing.
Since 2009, WHO, along with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have been striving for increased availability of treatment for those with alcohol and drug problems.
Only 82 countries offer special health services to people with drug use disorders. Experts say that better public awareness of alcohol and drug problems, and how they impact on public health, are vital. Agencies governments and public health authorities throughout the world believe that treatment should be available everywhere.
Written by Sarah Glynn