Summary and Analysis

Developments in the field of mental health and psychiatry are relevant to addiction treatment policy since addiction is viewed, under current medical practice, as a mental disorder. Consequently, we found this World Health Organization publication that calls for “an end to human rights violations in mental health care” to be of interest.

Last June, the WHO published a directive on the human rights of mental-health clients that the New York Times Magazine described as “a revolutionary manifesto on the subject of severe psychiatric disorders.” The Times piece went on to say that the WHO publication “challenges biological psychiatry’s authority, its expertise and insight about the psyche.” The WHO publication calls for an end to all involuntary or coercive treatment and to the dominance of the pharmaceutical approach that is foremost in mental health care across the full spectrum of psychiatrically-treated conditions, including psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression and a host of other diagnoses. Psychiatry’s problematic drugs, the WHO maintains, must no longer be an unquestioned mainstay of treatment.

As medical-centric approaches to addiction treatment are generally based on this “pharmaceutical approach,” this new WHO position could have some relevance to how we view the role of medication in the treatment of addiction.

Excerpted from World Health Organization

Globally, the majority of mental health care continues to be provided in psychiatric hospitals, and human rights abuses and coercive practices remain all too common. WHO’s new “Guidance on community mental health services: promoting person-centered and rights-based approaches” further affirms that mental health care must be grounded in a human rights-based approach.