‘Support, Dont Punish’ is the mission we must all advocate for on World Drug Day


Nigeria has a drug problem. According recent research published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, there are 11 million Nigerians who struggle with some kind of addiction to controlled substances. In line with the global War On Drugs, Nigeria has leaned heavily on punishment instead of rehabilitation to address the problem with abuse and misuse of drugs, a tactic that has proven ineffective in reducing the availability of drugs or punishing the individuals who profit the most from the use and abuse of drugs of all kinds. Stakeholders in the field have come to the conclusion that a different approach must be adopted if we want to see lasting results.

To raise awareness for the cause, International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, also known as ‘World Drug Day’, is celebrated annually on 26 June. The theme of World Drug Day 2020 is “Better Knowledge for Better Care.”

Misinformation is core problem experts face when they seek to address illicit drug use. This year’s theme aims at improving the understanding of the world drug problem and at fostering greater international cooperation for countering its impact on health, governance and security. This is how Mr. Joseph Ike, program director of the Milestones Foundation, the Coordinating CSO for SDP campaign in Kaduna, Nigeria describes this year’s sensitization efforts:

This year, on the 26th of June, we mobilise to stand in solidarity and offer sustainable and effective alternatives that advance the health and wellbeing of all, with decriminalisation and harm reduction at the core of our interventions.

Support. Don’t Punish is a global grassroots-centred initiative in support of harm reduction and drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights. The campaign seeks to put harm reduction on the political agenda by strengthening the mobilisation capacity of affected communities and their allies, opening dialogue with policy makers, and raising awareness among the media and the public.

The campaign’s yearly high point is the Global Day of Action, which takes place on, or around, 26th June (the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking). Historically, this date has been used by governments to showcase their drug control “achievements” in coercive terms. The campaign’s Global Day of Action seeks to reclaim and shift that day’s narrative. And so, every year, an increasing number of  activists in dozens of cities all over the world join this unique and multifaceted show of force for reform and harm reduction. To stay in touch about the Global Day of Action and possibilities of support, please subscribe to our newsletter. You can also learn more about previous local partners’ previous activities here.

The Support, Don’t Punish campaign aligns with the following key messages:

  • The drug control system is broken and in need of reform.
  • People who use drugs should no longer be criminalised
  • People involved in the drug trade at low levels, especially those involved for reasons of subsistence or coercion, should not face harsh or disproportionate punishments.
  • The death penalty should never be imposed for drug offences.
  • Drug policy should focus on health, well-being and harm reduction
  • Drug policy budgets need rebalancing to ensure health and harm reduction-based responses are adequately financed.

We urge you all to do your part in reducing the stigma around drug use, encouraging users to seek rehabilitative care and providing community based support for families and friends of those affected by the problem.

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