ISLAMABAD: With a view to further facilitating the effective treatment and rehabilitation of patients, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has started training drug treatment professionals.

A recently-conducted national survey in Pakistan showed that about 6.7 million people in the country had used any controlled substance, including misuse of prescription drugs. Approximately, 1.6 million people reported non-medical use of prescription opioids. Methamphetamine was reported to be used by about 19,000 people.

The number of people who inject drugs was estimated to be 430,000 nationwide and of these 73pc reported sharing syringes. Women were reported to misuse tranquilisers and sedatives as well as amphetamines.

Substance use disorders constitute a public health, developmental and security problem, both in industrialised and developing countries worldwide. Prevention and treatment of drug use disorders are essential demand reduction strategies of significant public health importance.

The week-long training of 48 drug treatment professionals including psychiatrists, doctors, psychologists and social workers from all the four provinces and the federal capital started in collaboration with the ministry of narcotics control and support from the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). It will conclude on Oct 11.

According to UNODC, the training of drug treatment professionals will help enhance the quality of treatment services, expansion of the continuum of care provided to persons with substance use disorders (SUDs) and their families and increased efficiency of treatment programmes.

The competency of SUD practitioners will further be enhanced through knowledge and skills-based training to ensure that implemented practices are evidence-based and treatment services are structured and affordable.

Welcoming the UNODC move to start the training of drug treatment professionals, Secretary Narcotics Control Division Amjad Javed Saleemi said the government was taking measures to enhance the capacity of drug treatment professionals and supporting evidence-based drug dependence treatment services.

There is a need for collective and coordinated actions from the government, private and non-government organisations to scale up the existing drug prevention and drug treatment interventions which are evidence based and in line with international standards for drug prevention and treatment.

He said the ministry supports the drug dependence treatment and care services which are based on scientific evidence and on ethical standards.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2019