VIENNA/ROME, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Addressing the world drug problem requires responses that are based on facts, solidarity and compassion, said the chief of the Vienna-based United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Friday.
Some 35.6 million people suffer from drug use disorders globally, said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, quoting the "World Drug Report 2020" released on Thursday.
"Adolescents and young adults account for the largest share of those using drugs. Of the 11 million people who inject drugs, half of them are living with hepatitis C, and 1.4 million with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)," she said.
Only one out of eight people who need drug-related treatment receives it, she added.
The executive director pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation, overwhelming health systems and exposing the fragility of institutions and social safety nets.
The theme of this year's international day, "Better Knowledge for Better Care," highlights the need to understand drug dynamics trapping so many people in a downward spiral, and to inform balanced solutions based on scientific evidence, said Waly.
She called on all countries to shoulder shared responsibility to tackle illicit drug supply and reduce demand.
HEAVY LOSS IN ITALY
In Italy alone, the war on drugs costs Italy 22 billion euros (24.7 billion U.S. dollars) per year in lost revenue, according to a new report released Friday under the terms of Italy's Jervolino-Vassalli law, which is at the base of the country's drug policy.
The 11th edition of the Libro Bianco Sulle Droghe (White Paper on Drugs) was released Friday in conjunction with the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, a day created by the United Nations "as an expression of its determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse."
Overall, the international day was used by various groups with diverse points of view -- those calling for lighter enforcement for recreational drug use, those advocating for some drugs to be used as a kind of health therapy, and those warning that drug addiction is a growing danger.
The White Paper on Drugs, a collaborative effort between various advocacy groups, said that 37.8 percent of Italy's prison population is in jail for drug-related offenses, many of them minors.
The estimate is that the direct and indirect impacts of maintaining those prisoners are worth 22 billion euros, plus a slow criminal justice system, and a prison system working overcapacity.
The report, which is available in most bookstores, is formally presented to Italy's parliament on Friday.
The Jervolino-Vassalli law, passed by a national referendum in 1992, differentiates the way the law treats "light" and "heavy" drugs, and it commissioned regular studies of the trends related to Italians' drug habits.
The international day was also marked in Italy by newspaper editorials, scattered peaceful demonstrations in parts of the country, and a declaration from Italy's Central Directorate of Anti-Drug Services (DCSA) in Rome, which reiterated the organization's cooperation with police in the fight against drug trafficking.
Together with the country's Department for Anti-Drug Policies, the DCSA helps organize various conferences to shed light on drug-related issues and make recommendations on relevant statutes. It has signed bilateral and multilateral drug enforcement agreements with authorities in nearly 60 countries and regions.
In addition, around two dozen national groups in Italy, which advocate the use of certain light drugs like cannabis as a therapy against certain illnesses, used the international day to call for rules that would facilitate access to such drugs.
"June 26 is an unmissable opportunity to shout to the country that we exist and we are tired of being forgotten," Luciano Squillaci, president of the Italian Federation of Therapeutic Communities, said in a statement. Squillaci also said his organization and many others were "involved in a battle for fair treatment."
Speaking on Thursday, Roberta Pacifici, director of the National Center on Addiction and Doping, part of Italy's National Institute of Health, said that the center did not oppose the legal use of drugs, that the average age of illicit drug users was dropping for the first time, and that the country's overall addiction levels were growing.
"This is the time for action, more than ever before," Pacifici said in a video conference.