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United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs Advocates Stepping Up Demand Reduction Measures


April 1995

Members of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, meeting Mar. 14-23 in Vienna, warned that new measures roughly grouped under the heading "harm reduction" should not be considered a substitute for demand reduction as a way to combat the harms associated with drug abuse (United Nations Information Service, "'Harm Reduction' Should Not Substitute for Demand Reduction, Narcotic Drugs Commission is Told," Mar. 20, 1995; United Nations Information Service, "Six Substances Placed Under Restriction by Commission on Narcotic Drugs," Mar. 22, 1995; United Nations Information Service, "Commission on Narcotic Drugs Concludes Thirty-Eighth Session in Vienna," Mar. 23, 1995).

Recia McMahon, the representative from the United States, said that the U.S. would not put harm reduction into its drug policy goals. Harm reduction, she argued, implies acceptance of illegal drug use. "The use of drugs is the 'harm' we must work to reduce," she said.

The representative from the Netherlands argued that harm reduction is misunderstood, and called for a clearer definition of the term. He expressed disappointment that in the United States the term "harm reduction" has become synonymous with legalization.

The Committee reclassified some substances, including methcathinone, aminorex and flunitrazepam, placing restrictions on their use under the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

Members also discussed what supply and demand reduction measures work best, developed new measures to deal with money laundering and considered policies to control international traffic in the precursor materials and to foster alternative agricultural development.

Many who attended noted that more attention should be given to the abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and inhalants in drug abuse prevention programs.

Five governmental agencies, 97 countries, 12 inter-governmental bodies, and 20 non-governmental organizations were represented at the conference.