Drug dependency treatment should be voluntary

This week, the World Medical Association and the International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organisations have called for compulsory drug detention centers to be closed.

Sarah Evans at Open Society Foundations has the story: Shut Down Abusive Drug Detention Centers

As many as an estimated 400,000 people worldwide are currently held in drug detention centers— sometimes for years at a time— on suspicion of using drugs or because of a positive urine test. Most get no medical evaluation, and no treatment—for drug addiction, TB, or HIV. Though these centers are called “rehabilitation,” “treatment,” or education centers, what goes on inside is not based on research or accepted medical principles so much as the desire to discipline and punish.

Patients’ human rights are frequently violated, said the WMA and the International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organizations (IFHHRO). Drug users are beaten, starved, and forced to labor—often in the service of private companies. The number of such “treatment” centers has continued to grow in recent years. [...]

Dr. Adriaan van Es, IFHHRO’s director[:] “As in other forms of medical care, drug dependency treatment should be voluntary and should respect and validate the autonomy of the individual,” he said.

The drug detention centers are really prisons by another name, and most operate outside either the medical or criminal justice system. National police, military forces, and other public security authorities run most drug detention camps. Detainees suspected of drug use can be held without trial, an appearance before a judge, or right of appeal. While some people do enter such facilities by choice, most do not, and those who attempt to leave are often beaten by the “teachers” who staff the centers.

This issue is being addressed as part of the campaign to Stop Torture in Health Care

We may think we’re above all this in the U.S., but we’re not.

Our forced treatment may not be as abusive, but it is still forced treatment, and when it means loss of liberty or loss of parenting, it’s not that different from torture.

It’s amazing how little we, as a society, discuss the ongoing horrors of the drug war in other countries. Perhaps it’s because it would force us to look at ourselves as well.

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