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Addiction treatment methods in some parts of the world are harsh and unhelpful, according to a new report from the United Nations. Some practices are “tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” the report states.

The report condemns denying patients long-term maintenance treatment with methadone or buprenorphine, a practice that occurs in some treatment settings in the United States, notes. “A particular form of ill-treatment and possibly torture of drug users is the denial of opiate substitution treatment,” the report says, adding this is considered a human rights violation when it occurs in jails and prisons.

The report was presented to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council in Geneva this week. It explains that in some Asian countries, “Compulsory detention for drug users is common in so-called rehabilitation centers. Sometimes referred to as drug treatment centers or ‘reeducation through labor’ centers or camps, these are institutions commonly run by military or paramilitary, police or security forces, or private companies. Persons who use, or are suspected of using, drugs and who do not voluntarily opt for drug treatment and rehabilitation are confined in such centers and compelled to undergo diverse interventions.”

Users of illicit drugs who are held in these centers undergo painful withdrawal from drug dependence without medical assistance, “administration of unknown or experimental medications, state-sanctioned beatings, caning or whipping, forced labor, sexual abuse and intentional humiliation,” according to the report. Other reported abuses include “flogging therapy,” “bread and water therapy,” and electroshock resulting in seizures. In many of these settings, there are no medical professionals trained to manage drug dependence disorders as medical illnesses.

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