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  • Writer's pictureModupe O. Oreye

International Day Against Drug Abuse and Trafficking

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

Drug Abuse and Trafficking are two terms that probably sound like a broken record now.

Growing up, we heard a lot of stories about drug abuse and drug trafficking from the woman down the street to the broadcast stations carrying news of persons deported for carrying drugs. This was to inform us and deter us from abusing drugs, to further prevent us from the illicit trafficking of drugs, and not to stigmatize those who use drugs.

Over the years, the awareness of these issues has increased significantly, yet it appears that nothing has changed. This has led to the global culture of having a specific International Day set against Drugs and Trafficking which is celebrated on the 26th of June each year to strengthen action and cooperation in achieving a world free of drug abuse.

This year's theme is People First: Stop Stigma and Discrimination, Strengthen PREVENTION. This theme serves as a poignant highlight to remind us that our collective efforts must prioritize the well-being of individuals affected by drug use while combating the harmful stigma and discrimination that too often accompanies it.

Before delving into this discourse properly, Drug abuse as referred to by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is the non-medical or non-therapeutic use of substances, leading to physical, psychological, or social harm. The World Health Organisation (WHO) sees drug abuse as "the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs."

On the other hand, Illicit Trafficking according to the WHO is 'the illegal production, distribution, and sale of drugs.' The UNODC refers to illicit trafficking as "the cultivation, production, manufacture, distribution, sale, and possession of substances that are prohibited by law."

According to the United Nations, Many people who use drugs face stigma and discrimination, which can further harm their physical and mental health and prevent them from accessing the help they need. Our Society is a culturally-inclined one and when repentant traffickers and drug users declare openly while intending to stop the use of drugs, there is this stigma, segregation, and discrimination that the society just places on a drug user which can affect the physical and mental well-being of these individuals.

WHO reports that drug users are less likely to seek medical assistance due to fear of judgment and discrimination from healthcare providers, resulting in delayed or inadequate care. Another Study in the International Journal of Drug Policy shows that stigma and discrimination create significant barriers to accessing healthcare services among people who use drugs. Overall, drug users encounter several obstacles including stigma and discrimination and those that prevent them from receiving the support they need thereby perpetuating poor health outcomes, and making their problems even worse.

Moreso, there is a need to increase understanding of the significance of treating drug users and traffickers with respect and empathy, providing voluntary, evidence-based services to everyone, providing alternatives to punishment, emphasizing prevention, and acting with compassion.

To tackle the stigma and discrimination associated with drug use, education plays a critical role in dispelling myths, misconceptions, and stereotypes surrounding substance abuse. Individuals can be empowered to respond with compassion and support by having accurate information about the nature of addiction as a complex health issue rather than seeing it as a moral failing. individuals with lived experiences of drug use can engage in advocacy and awareness campaigns to help challenge prevailing stigmas. This way, they can share their stories, and humanize the issue while illustrating the diverse paths that lead to substance abuse and illicit trafficking.

A strategy for drug prevention that is effective is to focus on evidence-based tactics that advocate for early intervention, education, and support systems as a priority. Comprehensive prevention programs should address the biological, psychological, and social causes of substance misuse. Additionally, they need to understand how drug use vulnerabilities are shaped by bad childhood experiences, mental health, and social determinants of health. Encouraging courteous and non-judgmental language and attitudes is also one strategy to fight stigma and discrimination against drug users.


  1. Normalize the use of person-first language instead of using labels or derogatory terms. For example, say "person who uses drugs" instead of "drug addict" or "person with substance use disorder" instead of "junkie." This approach acknowledges the individual's worth beyond the use of drugs.

  2. Make use of our various media platforms, including social media, television, radio, and print, to circulate key messages and personal stories that challenge stereotypes and promote compassion.

  3. Petition governments and policymakers to allocate resources to prevention, treatment, and harm reduction programs. Additionally, they should prioritize public health and human rights, shifting away from punitive measures that perpetuate stigma and discrimination in drug policies.

WRITTEN BY Modupe O. Oreye.

Modupe O. Oreye is a bright and young law undergraduate presently pursuing her degree at the University of Benin, Nigeria. She is a change strategist and growth personnel with a committed passion for personal and career development, and student leadership in social and environmental spheres. Modupe is passionate about advocating for quality education, and human rights and taking social actions to advance these causes. She is a writer, a LinkedIn optimization person, and a corporate compere as she is skilled in moderating social and online events.

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EDITED BY Chizulu Uwolloh.

'Zulu is a writer, self-proclaimed, bibliophile and lawyer passionate about social impact and showing people how they can create change in their communities.

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Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or connect with her on Linkedin!


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