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Experts Summoned by the OAS and Government of Mexico Recommend Treating Substance Abuse as a Chronic Disease

  October 28, 2010

Addiction to drugs and alcohol is a chronic disease that should be treated and cared for in the national health care system, exactly as care is given to patients with other chronic diseases, such as hypertension or diabetes. This is the consensus of experts from 20 Western Hemisphere countries at a technical meeting led by the Organization of American States (OAS) and Mexico’s Health Ministry in Guadalajara, Mexico, from October 25 to 27.

The experts focused their analysis on the rehabilitation of people who have used and abused drugs and alcohol over a long period of time, with significant costs to their own health, the wellbeing of their families and their communities as a whole. James Mack, Executive Secretary of Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) at the OAS, a sponsor of the meeting together with the Ministry of Health of Mexico, noted that drug dependence is a preventable disease, and that heavy investment is needed in prevention programs to make the use of drugs socially unacceptable.

The Under Secretary for Prevention and Health Promotion of Mexico, Mauricio Hernández Ávila, and the Governor of the Mexican State of Jalisco, Emilio González Márquez, co-hosts of the event, both assigned priority to the treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependent persons, to improve health and public safety. Heavy drug use in many places is associated with petty crimes, committed by people who steal to finance a drug habit that is out of control.

Adam Blackwell, OAS Secretary for Multidimensional Security, said that addressing the nexus of heavy drug use and criminal activity is one of his priorities: removing drug traffickers’ clients from the market, through successful drug treatment and rehabilitation, will help reduce the profits of drug cartels, and contribute to increased public safety and security.

The expert meeting was held under the auspices of the Mexican National Council Against Addiction (CONADIC) and CICAD/OAS. Margarita Zavala, President of the National Family Services System (DIF) and the wife of Mexican President Felipe Calderón, closed the meeting. Expert presentations on the subject of drug dependence from around the Americas will be made available on CICAD´s website –

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-408/10