Management of substance abuse

The health and social effects of nonmedical cannabis use

Cannabis is globally the most commonly used psychoactive substance under international control. In 2013, an estimated 181.8 million people aged 15-64 years used cannabis for nonmedical purposes globally. There is an increasing demand of treatment of cannabis use disorders and associated health conditions and there has been increased attention to the public health aspects of cannabis use and related disorders in international drug policy dialogues. This publication builds on contributions from a broad range of experts and researchers from different parts of the world. It aims to present the current knowledge on the impact of nonmedical cannabis use on health.

WHO's Executive Board discussed the world drug problem

9 February 2016 -- The 138th session of WHO's Executive Board (EB) discussed the public health dimension of the world drug problem in the light of the upcoming Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem, to be held in 2016. The EB agreed on the inclusion of a follow-up discussion on the public health dimension of the world drug problem in the agenda of the 69th World Health Assembly in May 2016.

WHO’s role, mandate and activities to counter the world drug problem

The world drug problem constitutes a serious threat to public health and the well-being of humanity. WHO has been invited to contribute to the preparations of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session to address the world drug problem (UNGASS 2016). One of the contributions is a comprehensive document that summarizes WHO’s current role and mandate and outlines its current programmes and activities. In the period leading up to UNGASS on the world drug problem in 2016, WHO will release a number of further publications in the area of drugs and health.

Global momentum needed for increased action to reduce harmful use of alcohol

To strengthen the implementation of the Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol, WHO and more than 400 stakeholders convened in October 2015 under the theme “Momentum for change: research and advocacy reducing alcohol harm”.

Participants discussed barriers to implementation and the need for a global strong network, and WHO urged governments to focus on implementation of the most effective and cost-effective actions to reduce harmful use of alcohol.


fact buffet

Drug use

230 millionpeople, or 1 in 20 adults, are estimated to have used an illicit drug at least once in 2010.

World Drug Report 2012

Health services

1.7 bedsper 100 000 population are available for the treatment of alcohol and drug use disorders

Beds for the treatment of alcohol and drug use disorders

Pharmacological treatment

30%of countries have effective medication available

Availability of opioid agonist treatment

The Global Information System on Alcohol and Health

The Global Information System on Alcohol and Health (GISAH) provides easy and rapid access to a wide range of alcohol-related health indicators. It is an essential tool for assessing and monitoring the health situation and trends related to alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harm, and policy responses in countries.

This web site contains information pertaining to psychoactive substance use and abuse, and also information about the World Health Organization's projects and activities in the areas of substance use and substance dependence.

WHO is the only agency dealing with all psychoactive substances, regardless of their legal status. WHO’s mandate in the area of psychoactive substance use includes:

  • Prevention and reduction of the negative health and social consequences of psychoactive substance use;
  • Reduction of the demand for non-medical use of psychoactive substances;
  • Assessment of psychoactive substances so as to advise the United Nations with regard to their regulatory control.

Since its founding in 1948, WHO has played a leading role in supporting countries to prevent and reduce the problems due to psychoactive substance use, and in recommending which psychoactive substances should be regulated. In 2000, the Department of Substance Abuse was merged with the Department of Mental Health to form the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, reflecting the many common approaches of management of mental health and substance use disorders.


WHO Resolutions Related to Substance Use

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WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence

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WHO Expert Committee on Problems Related to Alcohol Consumption

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UN International Drug Control Conventions

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UN Key Declarations

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