Two weeks ago in Vienna, delegates at the fifty-fifth annual meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the United Nations’ central drug policy-making body, unanimously adopted a resolution promoting measures to prevent drug overdose. Introduced by the Czech Republic and co-sponsored by Israel and Denmark (the latter on behalf of the European Union), the resolution calls on United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Health Organization (WHO), and other international organizations to work with member-states to address the global overdose epidemic.
The resolution urges countries to take action by incorporating overdose prevention into their national drug strategies. In collaboration with WHO, UNODC will identify medical standards and gather successful examples of implementation of such efforts from experts around the world. In addition, they will provide guidance and support to countries committed to establishing overdose prevention initiatives.
At the opening of the week-long meeting the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) affirmed its support for overdose prevention. In his opening statement, ONDCP Director Kerlikowske endorsed training for public health and safety personnel in recognizing overdose and administering life-saving techniques and overdose reversal medications such as naloxone.
Although CND resolutions such as this one are not legally binding on member states, they set the tone for international standards and expectations for national activities directed at addressing drug-related harms. Being the first top-level international resolution to recognize the role of naloxone in addressing the opioid overdose epidemic, the resolution is being applauded by many public health advocates working to advance overdose prevention programming and education around the world. United Nations programs, such as UNODC and WHO are mandated to use such resolutions to set institutional strategies and priorities.
Full text of the approved resolution is provided below. The key points for action are contained in the six points at the end of the resolution.