September 16, 2019
 In Opioid Crisis

Country: Switzerland
Delegate Name: Camille Gerville-Reache

In the past decade, new illicit substances are emerging at six times the amount. Annual seizures of amphetamine stimulants increased by 64 percent, and opioid deaths have increased by 71 percent. This has only been amplified during the pandemic. Recognizing this the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has made strides by implementing a synthetic drug strategy, focusing on international cooperation, identifying threats, scientifically-supported responses, and interventions.

However, through implementing innovative strategies, Switzerland has seen a decrease in annual drug overdose deaths (64%) and opioid-related drug prosecutions (75%). The Heroin-assisted Treatment (HAT) program is largely credited with this shift. Constructed based on scientific trials in the 1990s, the HAT program treats heroin abuse victims (with no demonstrated improvement through other rehabilitative methods) by providing clean, medical heroin. While providing heroin to substance abusers may seem counterintuitive, the results aren’t: along with fewer drug deaths, new cases of opioid use have dropped, and HIV and hepatitis cases (linked to the use of unclean needles) have dropped. Additionally, Switzerland saves tens of thousands with fewer criminal justice proceedings and incarcerations. Participants are able to return to their families, work, and improve their livelihoods.

Switzerland encourages other nations to adopt similar programs to HAT and its four pillars: prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and law enforcement. Switzerland also supports further research on treatments for women and youth (who are often overlooked in clinical trials) and firm punishments on organized drug dealing. Through multilateralism, Switzerland believes that a drug-safe world can be achieved.

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