Govt highlights health, human rights in national drug policy

The Director-General of Narcotic Control Commission (NACOC), Mr Kenneth Adu-Amanfoh, has said government has taken significant steps to place health and human rights issues at the heart of national drug policy.

He noted that the traditional approach of incarceration had proven insufficient in addressing the root causes of addiction, often exacerbating rather than alleviating the problem.

“This is evident through the enactment of the Narcotics Control Commission Act 2020 (Act 1019), which provides for a shift from incarceration to public health for persons with Substance use Disorders (SUDs) in consonance with the global shift from incarceration to treatment and rehabilitation as best practices,” Mr Adu-Amanfoh assured.

He was speaking to at a five-day workshop organised by NACOC, in Accra on Monday, to discuss alternatives to incarceration of persons suffering from drug Substance Use Disorders (SUDs), in West Africa.

The event formed part of a pilot project initiated by Enhancing Africa’s Response to Transnational Organised Crime (ENACT), which seeks to promote a coordinated response to drug offenses by providing drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration for individuals struggling with drug addiction.

It brought together experts from the judiciary, security services and health agencies, including NACOC, Ghana Judicial Service, Ghana Police Service, Ghana Prisons Service, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Attorney-General Office and International Society of Substance Use Prevention and Treatment Professionals.

Mr Adu-Amanfoh said it was estimated that 18 per cent of the global prison population was incarcerated for drug-related crimes, made up of approximately two million people worldwide.

He lamented that often these people were low-level offenders, who use drugs or have drug use disorder.

Mr Adu-Amanfoh said the pilot project represented a significant step in the collective efforts to confront substance use disorder with empathy, innovation and evident-based strategies.

The Resident Representative of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), Baba Wakil Gana, stated that according to the 2023 World Drug Report, about 296 million people used drugs at least once in 2021, and about 39.5 million of these people were suffering from SUDs.

He said incarceration of people with SUDs had proven to be counter-productive and waste of resources.

Mr Gana stated that the ECOWAS Commission had supported more than eight drug treatment and rehabilitation centers in five member states, to improve access to drug treatment and rehabilitation.

“In addition to providing treatment centers, there are now over 200 trained healthcare personnel to provide care for people with SUDs,” he added.

The Principal Programme Officer, ECOWAS Drug Prevention and Control Division, Dr Daniel Akwasi Amankwah, said participants at the end of the workshop, would come out with a roadmap on how to roll out the pilot project.

The Senior Research and Project Coordinator of ENACT, Dr Christian Ani, said more than 500,000 people die of substance abuse globally each year, and called for concerted effort to address the menace in the West African sub-region.

Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) is a treatable mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behaviour, leading to their inability to control their use of substances like legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications. 


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