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II. Obligations arising from human rights standards

1.1 Harm reduction

The right to health as applied to drug policy includes access, on a voluntary basis, to harm reduction services, goods, facilities, and information.

In accordance with their right to health obligations, States should:

i. Ensure the availability and accessibility of harm reduction services as recommended by UN technical agencies such as the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, meaning that such services should be adequately funded, appropriate for the needs of particular vulnerable or marginalised groups, compliant with fundamental rights (such as privacy, bodily integrity, due process, and freedom from arbitrary detention), and respectful of human dignity.

ii. Consider the development of other evidence-based interventions aimed at minimising the adverse health risks and harms associated with drug use.

iii. Remove age restrictions on access to harm reduction services where they exist, and instead ensure that in every instance in which a young person seeks access to services, access is determined based on the best interests and evolving capacity of the individual in question.

iv. Exclude from the scope of criminal offences, or other punitive laws, policies, or practices, the carrying and distribution of equipment, goods, and information intended for preventing or reducing the harms associated with drug use, ensuring also that criminal conspiracy laws do not capture people using drugs together for this purpose.

v. Ensure that any law prohibiting the ‘incitement’ or ‘encouragement’ of drug use contains safeguards protecting harm reduction services, excluding from liability those who provide information, facilities, goods, or services aimed at reducing harms associated with drug use.

vi. Ensure that victims of, or witnesses to, an overdose or other injury occurring as a result of drug use are legally protected against criminal prosecution and other punishment in situations in which they have sought medical assistance for the overdose or injury.

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