Traditional approach to incarceration insufficient in addressing addiction – NACOC

Mr Kenneth Adu-Amanfoh, the Director-General, Narcotics Control Commission (NACOC), says the traditional approach of detention has proven insufficient in addressing the root causes of addiction.

He said this often worsened rather than alleviated the problem.

He said exploring alternatives to incarceration, was not only demonstrating the Commission’s commitment to justice and compassion but also recognising the inherent dignity and worth of every individual, regardless of their struggles.

The Director-General said substance use disorders continued to plague society, exacting a toll not only on individuals but on families, communities, and the nation as a whole.

Mr. Adu-Amanfoh was speaking at the opening ceremony of a five-day workshop on the pilot project on alternatives to incarceration for persons with substance use disorders in Ghana, which was held in Accra.

The programme which is designed to focus on treatment and recovery for People Who Use Drugs (PWUDs) is anticipated to result in the recovery of
PWUDs, contributing to a safer and crime-free society.

He said the pilot project represented a significant step forward in the Commission’s collective efforts to confront substance use disorders with empathy, innovation, and evidence-based strategies.

Mr Adu-Amanfoh said by focusing on prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, rather than punishment, they had the opportunity to transform lives, strengthen families, and build safer and healthier communities.

The Director-General said it was estimated that 18 per cent of the global prison population was incarcerated for drug-related crimes, which amounted to approximately two million people worldwide.

He said the 2023 World Drug Report, stated that about 296 million people used drugs at least once in 2021 and about 39.5 million of these people had substance use disorders, and that only one out of five persons with substance use disorders do not have access to any form of treatment.

‘The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2020 estimated that about
3.1 million people were arrested for drug related offences at the global level, of which 61 per cent were arrested for drug possession for personal use,’ he added.

He said among those convicted for drug-related offences, the majority were estimated to be in contact with the criminal justice system for personal use offences instead of trafficking offences.

Mr Adu-Amanfoh said the Government of Ghana had taken significant steps towards placing health and human rights at the heart of national drug policy, which was evident through the enactment of the NACOC Act 2020 (Act 1019).

He said this was an indication of the Government of Ghana’s strong commitment towards prevention and treatment rather than incarceration.

The Director-General said under the repealed Narcotics Law, PNDC Law 236, Ghana had a minimum five-year imprisonment for possession of drugs, which had now been replaced by penalty units or a referral for rehabilitation under Act 1019.

Mr Baba Wakil Gana, Resident Representative, Economic Community
of West Africa States (ECOWAS) in Ghana, reiterated that substance had been a persistent global issue with traditional punitive measures often proving insufficient

He said several studies had indicated that putting people who had substance use disorders in jail or prison was futile, therefore a gradual shift from incarceration to the provision of treatment and care to the people with substance use disorders worldwide was necessary.

The Resident Representative said the ECOWAS Commission was mobilising resources to assist people with substance use disorders in its Member States who encountered the law, to access drug treatment and rehabilitation in lieu of incarceration.

Source: Ghana News Agency