Remarks at ISSUP International Workshop

Brian Morales, Director of Drug Demand Reduction Programs
Campinas, Brazil
December 9, 2016

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you for coming; I very much appreciate the opportunity to speak with the press. We want to let the Brazilian public know about the commitment of the United States to working with Brazil on the drug challenges facing both our countries.

Brazil’s very serious involvement in the illicit drug use challenge is a model to other governments, including mine, around the world.

And special thanks to Dede, Paulo and Freemind for helping pull this press conference together – the key role of Freemind, Amor Exigente and Febract in making ISSUP happen is a model for civil society participation.

The United States is proud to have played a part in making this gathering in Campinas – only the second ever such gathering – a reality. It’s one thing to talk about the importance of effective, humane drug treatment and prevention; who would disagree with that? But with this gathering, which has convened over 3000 individuals from more than 60 countries, representing doctors and drug treatment professionals, policymakers and youth drug prevention experts, we’ve moved beyond talk to real action.

Substance use disorder is a very real scourge, one that is again afflicting communities in the United States, just as it is here in Brazil.

Just yesterday we heard the unfortunate news that U.S. deaths from drug overdoses went up significantly from 2014 to 2015. Deaths from synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, went up 73% in one year, while heroin deaths went up 23%.

And I’m here to tell you that the United States is firmly committed to approaching this challenge not just from a law enforcement perspective, that focuses on “busting bad guys,” but with a focus on public health. We operate from the understanding that users can’t simply be treated as criminals; they are individuals suffering from substance use disorders.

From this point of view, solutions to the drugs problem must include not only efforts against violent traffickers, but tried and true programs to prevent drug abuse and promote recovery, based in scientific evidence.

Its not just me telling you this; we have taken this message to the international stage in the highest profile way possible -- in the first high-level UN gathering on drugs in almost 20 years, this past April, the United States promoted a balanced approach to drugs which accounted for both enforcement and public health.

We were very pleased that the outcome document of this UN session affirmed the balanced approach, discussed alternatives to incarceration and proportional sentencing as ways to help individuals get the treatment they need, and promoted a strong role for the public health sector – including the WHO, which is here at ISSUP -- alongside the criminal justice sector in facing the challenge of drugs.

Just as the United States has been promoting public health in the international arena, we’ve also been taking concrete steps to make drug treatment and prevention more effective around the world.

We’ve worked with academics and the UN to develop – and to disseminate to professionals worldwide – a Universal Treatment Curriculum and Universal Prevention Curriculum. And we’re so pleased that trainings here at ISSUP are based on these materials.

By ensuring that the methods and doctrines in these curricula are based in scientific evidence, we’re helping ensure that those doing the difficult and essential work of drug treatment and prevention worldwide can do so effectively, and to a high standard.

Also, of interest to you in Brazil, we’ve worked with international researchers and doctors to develop a training series on treatment for children. We recently hosted a global meeting in Washington that developed a model for addressing the risk factors and protective factors that can help mediate drug use for vulnerable children.

These are steps that we, as a national-level government, are proud to have taken. But we know that effort at the local community level is what counts most in the fight against the terrible affliction of substance use. And I just want to affirm how impressed I have been to see up-close the expertise, commitment, and empathy of the individuals here at ISSUP, from all across the globe, who advance treatment and prevention every day, on the ground.

Thank you, obrigado.