World Health Organisation quotes


WHO responsibilities & role in UN Conventions:

"WHO is the only agency which is dealing with all psychoactive substances, regardless of their legal status. It seeks an integrated approach to all substance use problems within the health care system, in particular primary care."

"WHO therefore seeks to distil information on the best available evidence of substance use and its associated harms and to provide technical assistance to Member States to collect their own data and to monitor trends".

"WHO undertakes medical and scientific review of psychotropic and narcotic substances before the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs makes decisions on their control status".

"7. WHO’s assessment is determinative for scientific and medical matters, but CND may also take into account legal, administrative, economic, social and other factors in reaching its decision".
Guidelines for the WHO review of dependence-producing psychoactive substances for international control, 2001

"Tobacco and alcohol use typically starts during youth and acts as a facilitator to the use of other drugs. Thus tobacco and alcohol contribute indirectly to a large amount of the burden of other drugs and the consequent diseases".
World Health Report 2001

"WHO has always advocated a combined approach to reduce the harm resulting from the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco".


Global statistics:

"WHO estimated that there were 1.1 billion [tobacco] smokers in the world at the beginning of the 1990s".

The World Health Organisation says "In an initial estimate of factors responsible for the global burden of disease, tobacco contributed to 6% of all deaths world wide, followed by alcohol at 1.5% and illicit drugs at 0.2%".

WHO points out that tobacco use is only 7 times more prevalent than illicit drug use but causes 22 times as many deaths as illegal drug use, suggesting that tobacco use causes 3 times as many deaths as all illicit drug use.

"In Europe alone, alcohol was responsible for over 55,000 deaths among young people aged 15-29 years in 1999".
WHO’s ‘Managing Substance Dependency’, 2003

"Tobacco is the most widely distributed and commonly used drug in the world today. More deaths are due to tobacco than to any other drug".


Effective & compatible interventions:

WHO’s ‘Myths and facts for policy makers’ 2001:
"For every dollar spent on treatment 7 dollars are returned in cost-savings. Treatment is proven to be cost-effective in both developed and developing countries. It costs less than imprisonment. People with substance dependence are among the most marginalized in societies and are in need of treatment and care. To incarcerate offenders for drug use and dependence is not an effective prevention or treatment strategy". or (166kb)

"Substance dependence treatable, says neuroscience expert report. Psychosocial, environmental, biological and genetic factors all play significant roles in dependence, says new report published by WHO. The report urges increasing awareness of the complex nature of these problems and the biological processes underlying drug dependence. It also supports effective policies, prevention and treatment approaches and the development of interventions that do not stigmatize patients, are community based and cost-effective."

The Forty-second World Health Assembly’s ‘Prevention and control of drug and alcohol abuse’, 2003:
"URGES Member States to develop comprehensive policies and programmes for combating drug and alcohol abuse within the context of primary health care, with emphasis on prevention and health promotion, in conjunction with other mental health programme activities and in accordance with their own needs and priorities…
REQUESTS the Director-General … to strengthen WHO's programme on the prevention and control of drug and alcohol abuse, bearing in mind the need …to achieve a reduction in demand for drugs and alcohol through the development of effective techniques for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation; to encourage the rational use of licit psychoactive drugs through collaboration with professional bodies".

The Forty-third World Health Assembly’s ‘Reduction of demand for illicit drugs’, 2004:
"The Forty-third World Health Assembly …
URGES Member States … to devote appropriate resources to the development of national programmes of action … including … the development of comprehensive programmes of prevention, utilizing the principles of health promotion and involving full participation of the community and nongovernmental organizations, and intersectoral cooperation; [and] recognizing the relationship between health programmes dealing with drug abuse and those in related areas;
REQUESTS the Director-General …to intensify WHO's action … namely …collaborating in controlling the supply of licit psychoactive substances; to encourage the development of national programmes of action on drug abuse consistent with the economic and health priorities of countries; to ensure coherence in WHO's action to reduce drug abuse and its action in related areas such as the control of alcohol abuse and of the spread of AIDS; to continue to draw attention to WHO's role in the reduction of demand for illicit drugs, and to attract additional support for the programme; to continue to work closely with the United Nations Division of Narcotic Drugs, the International Narcotics Control Board and the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control, together with other regional and international bodies involved, to ensure the fullest possible coordination and compatibility of programmes and optimum use of available resources".


Cannabis risk assessments - 1955 to 1995:

WHO’s Physical & Mental Effects of Cannabis, 1955:
"under the influence of cannabis, the danger of committing unpremeditated murder is very great; it can happen in cold blood, without any reason or motive, unexpectedly, without any preceding quarrel; often the murderer does not even know the victim, and simply kills for pleasure".

WHO’s A Comparative Appraisal of the Health and Psychological Consequences of Alcohol, Cannabis, Nicotine and Opiate Use, 1995:
"There is little to suggest that causal relationship of cannabis use to aggression or violence" and "cannabis appears to play little role in injuries caused by violence, as does alcohol"



Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General World Health Organization, Ninth International Conference of Drug Regulatory Authorities (ICDRA) - 27 April 1999:
"The main responsibility of drug regulation is to safeguard the availability of good quality, safe and effective pharmaceuticals to all citizens. Part of the failure of past tobacco control stems from the incongruous way tobacco products have been regulated".

"Tobacco products are the only products which kill when used as intended, up to one-half of users. Yet, in many respects and in many countries, the product itself is virtually unregulated. At the Ninth International Conference of Drug Regulatory Authorities (ICDRA) in Berlin in April 1999 WHO Director General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland noted that cigarettes are highly engineered consumer products and called upon international food and drug regulators to bring cigarettes and tobacco industry products under the same type of regulatory frameworks as other drugs".


Stakeholder involvement in policy making:

WHO, UNDCP and EMCDDA’s ‘The International guidelines for the evaluation of treatment services and systems for psychoactive substance use disorders’, 2000:
"The European Union Drug Action Plan on Drugs (2000-2004) set out an agreed programme for the implementation of the principles and targets set in the Strategy. The Action Plan states that The European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction will establish guidelines for the evaluation of drug policies in Europe. … Communication with interested parties: Discussions with interested groups – such as service providers, clients of treatment programmes, and treatment funding agencies – can be an invaluable means of learning about the extent of support for the study, the direction it should take and practical issues concerning its implementation. In most situations those with the greatest interest in evaluation (the stakeholders) will be treatment programme personnel, representatives from the community, funding bodies and government. It may be very helpful for some stakeholders to serve as members of an advisory committee for the study.
Good communication with key stakeholders throughout the implementation of an evaluation is vital and they should be involved in an early discussion of findings and implications. It is also important that a clear understanding of the information requirements and interests of the funding body is secured. Discussions with all relevant stakeholders should be held at the outset and their views and concerns sought throughout the study. These discussions will help to formulate the central questions to be addressed. The aim is to clarify who wants to know what, by when, with what degree of precision, and at what cost. Each stakeholder may have unique experiences and perspectives that can contribute to the overall understanding of the issues and to the design and implementation of useful evaluations.
Different groups may, of course, have different ideas or emphases on what to evaluate. For example, policy makers and service purchasers may be most interested in costs and efficiency, while service provider staff may be more interested in assessing the benefits of a new treatment. Naturally, the number of questions which are worth looking at may over-stretch the time and resources available. If this is the case, it is essential that the evaluation team look at the questions that have the highest priority".

"Nongovernmental organizations
33. By the year 2005, all countries of the European Region should: support nongovernmental organizations and self-help movements that promote initiatives aimed at preventing or reducing the harm that can be done by alcohol.
34. Recommended actions to achieve these outcomes include the following:
– support nongovernmental organizations and networks that have experience and competence in advocating policies at international and country levels to reduce the harm that can be done by alcohol;
– support organizations and networks that have a specific advocacy function within their remit, such as associations of health care professionals, representatives of civil society and consumer organizations;
– support nongovernmental organizations and networks that have a specific role to play in informing and mobilizing civil society with respect to alcohol-related problems, lobbying for policy change and effective implementation of policy at government level, as well as exposing harmful actions of the alcohol industry".