Highlights of the conference included:
- Presentations on the unique challenges of measuring substance use
and providing substance abuse services in countries undergoing
political and social upheaval such as Iraq, Lebanon, and Ukraine.
- A presentation on Iran’s approach to reducing HIV transmission
in its prison system. While in the West the Iranian government has
a reputation of being harshly conservative, it has adopted very
effective measures to combat HIV transmission that might be
considered liberal, even by Western standards. These include wide
availability of clean needles and rapidly growing government-sanctioned
use of methadone treatment.
- Presentations by experts from around the world on both the advantages and limitations of integrating substance abuse treatment with other health, social, and criminal justice systems. Research and lessons learned from older substance abuse treatment systems could then be applied to countries where systems are still in the early stage of development.
While the presentations formed the core of the conference, the dialogues emerging outside of the conference room were just as important.
It was not uncommon for this U.S. participant to sit down at lunch with Middle Eastern participants having a lively debate about the Israeli-Palestinian situation and then to see that conversation turn to shared solutions to substance abuse problems.
Both anecdotal evidence and feed-back on a survey at the end of the conference suggest that many participants intend to pursue professional cooperation based on discussions and contacts made at the conference.
“The drug traffickers in the region easily cross centuries-old cultural and political barriers in plying an illegal trade that devastates personal health, social institutions, and political and economic stability. A similar united front among the nations of the region is the most effective way to fight back,” said Richard Rawson, Associate Director of ISAP. “We hope cooperation in this project will encourage dialogue on other common issues and help bridge long-broken relationships between nations.”
The conference received financial sponsorship from the United States Institute of Peace, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, World Health Organization, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Middle East Cooperation program.