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The United Nations on 'Addiction Treatment Rights'

In a discussion paper entitled ‘Principles of Drug Dependence Treatment’1, the United Nations states that all people receiving drug addiction treatment should be entitled to certain basic rights.

It doesn't matter who you are, what you've done (or are using) and whether or not you are incarcerated. The United Nations suggests the following addiction treatment rights:

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1. The right to treatment without discrimination

Addiction is a disease and no one should be discriminated against for past or present drug use, or for any other reason, such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender disability status etc.

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2. The right to the same ethical standards of treatment as is given to those with physical health conditions

There should be no difference between the ethical standards of care delivered to a cancer patient or an alcoholic or a heroin user. 

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3. The right to access to treatment during all stages of the disease

People with addictions have a right to access to treatment during all stages of this chronic disease. This includes during periods of incarceration.

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4. The right to deny treatment

Only in the most exceptional circumstances, such as when a person is an immediate risk to self or others, should any treatment ever be forced on another person. A person with addiction has the right to accept or deny any medical or psychosocial treatment.

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5. The right to treatment that is never inhumane or degrading

Drug addiction does not diminish a person’s human rights and so practices that would be considered degrading or inhumane for any person are degrading and inhumane for people with drug addictions.

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6. The right to informed consent and withdrawal from treatment

All people receiving drug addiction treatment have the right to full information about any treatment procedures and must provide their informed consent before receiving any treatments. Even after consenting to treatment, any person has the right to withdraw from treatment at any time, for any reason.

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7. The right to privacy of information

Your treatment and medical records must remain confidential and be released to outside parties only with your written consent.

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8. Your right to medical services should not depend on your participation in addiction treatment

You have the right to access all medical services whether or not you choose to comply with recommended addiction treatments.


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