Shut Down Abusive Drug Detention Centers

Shut Down Abusive Drug Detention Centers

Founded after the terrible medical experiments of the Nazis in World War II, the World Medical Association has been the leading international voice on ethical medical practice ever since.  WMA declarations have set the international ethical standard for clinical trials and practice on issues ranging from medical experimentation without consent to doctor participation in torture.  Today, the WMA focused on a little-known and abusive practice that is too common:  detention and degrading “treatment” of people who use drugs in the name of rehabilitation.

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. The two prominent medical organizations today denounced the practice of involuntary drug detention and called for all compulsory drug treatment facilities to be closed.

“The medical community has recognized that treatment of addiction, like treatment for any disease or condition, should be undertaken in the best interests of the patient and according to established principles of medical ethics,” said Dr. Wonchat Subhachaturas, WMA’s president said in a statement.

Dr. Adriaan van Es, IFHHRO’s director, echoed this sentiment. “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. “Drug therapy should be administered according to professional guidelines and supervised by specially trained physicians,” Subhachaturas said.

The WMA and IFHHRO urge compulsory drug treatment be replaced “with evidence-based, voluntary drug treatment in the community that adheres to ethical standards and human rights norms,” the two groups said today.

With this message, the WMA and IFHHRO join a growing chorus of voices worldwide calling for the end of involuntarily drug detention centers, and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments in health care settings.  We hope that other professional medical associations--and people who believe that care should not be mixed with cruelty—join what WMA and IFFHRO have started.

To find out how you can help, please visit the Campaign to Stop Torture in Health Care.

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Despite the terrible abuse in these centers, more and more are being built, financed by private enterprise or governments often to exploit the forced labor. Just this week we heard that a new women’s wing has been added to a notorious detention center in Phnom Phen. It was paid for by a Vietnamese bank. Read more here:

While the post points out that drug detention centers are like “prisons by another name,” it seems that in many cases, they’re actually worse than prisons. Speaking to drug users who’d been in centers in Vietnam, most said that they’d rather go to prison - at least there they had been charged in a court and had a clear sentence. Others who’d had experience in both settings said that prison guards treated them better, and that they had more free time in prison than in detention centers, where time was highly regimented and the work quotas impossibly demanding. These observations show that calls for “treatment rather than incarceration” need to be more nuanced when it comes to countries with so-called “compulsory drug treatment centers.” It’s great that the World Medical Association has called for their closure.

Some times people do not cope what they face. So many substances or habits can give addiction, even sweet food and costs are extremely high at least in matter of quality of life of consumers and their relatives and income spent. And harm is higher in drug use and abuse. But instead of analyzing causes and changing attitudes and practices, consumers are punished in a way. I agree there is a need for alternative measures, but when these measures became themselves a punishment it worsen results. So I agree closing such centers is desirable if there is a misunderstanding of their mission.

Today (May 23), the International Doctors for Healthy Drug Policies joined the World Medical Association, the International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organizations and others to call for the closure of compulsory drug detention centres. IDHDP is a network of medical doctors from more than 35 countries worldwide sharing expertise and good practice in reducing the health social and economic harms of people who use drugs and working to create dialogue and to influence practice and drug policy. IDHDP Medical Director Dr. Chris Ford said, "Evidence-based treatment is crucial for people who are dependent on drugs. Drug dependency is a chronic medical condition and should be treated like any other. There is no role for coercion or punishment in evidence-based treatment." IDHDP called for treatment, including opioid maintenance treatment with methadone and/or buprenorphine, to be made available to all who need and want it, voluntarily and in accordance with the highest standards of medical care and human rights.

For further information on the IDHDP statement, please contact:
Dr. Chris Ford
Medical Director
International Doctors for Healthy Drug POlicy
[email protected]

where can destitute opioid users go for buprinorphine treatment? in california in san diego county?

How can we report abusive drug treatment centers-that violate the rights of people?

the drug suboxone (blocker) buprinorphine(generic) is the newest drug which will efectivly stop drug is very expensive.and those who's lives of drug addiction have left them destitute have no hope of obtaining california a dr.'s visit $120.00.subutex 2mg $200.00 8mg $380.00.buprinorphine $2mg.$130.00 8mg $240.00 per month.and very few drug clinics are useing it.most havn't heard of it.

Yes, shut them down.

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