Landmark international conference convenes to discuss advances in the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders

Press release

London, 12 May 2022 – A major international conference on addiction prevention and treatment opens today in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Attendees from all over the world will convene to hear the latest learning and research from the fields of substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery support.

The event is a collaboration between the International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP), UAE host organisation the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), the International Consortium of Universities for Drug Demand Reduction (ICUDDR), and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

Following in the wake of a global pandemic that brought mental health and wellbeing to the forefront of public policy discussions in many countries, the event provides a timely platform for raising awareness of substance use disorders as both treatable and preventable conditions.

Joanna Travis-Roberts, ISSUP Chief Executive, said: “The challenge of acceptance is a huge obstacle. These remain amongst the most stigmatised and misunderstood of all physical and behavioural disorders. Changing the discourse and discouraging the use of stigmatising terms such as “junkie” and “addict” in terminology and messaging is vital. Events like this are opportunities to engage and help solve this.”

Whilst some progress on integrating substance use treatment and recovery support into primary care systems has been made, the global picture is mixed and frequently the provision of services is hampered by a lack of resources, skilled practitioners, or gaps in implementation.

To understand how the global workforce can unite to tackle these challenges, the world’s top specialists on prevention, treatment, and recovery support will gather under one roof from 12-16 May 2022 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC). The conference will feature three days of in-person plenaries with keynote speakers sharing new findings and evidence on which to build future work.

Titled “Uniting the Global Community to Face the Challenge of Addiction” the conference will feature a distinguished list of keynote speakers including Dr. Nora Volkow (Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse), Professor Michael Farrell (University of New South Wales), Former U.S. Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, Dr. Diana Fishbein (University of North Carolina), Ms. Giovanna Campello (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), Professor Dr. Harry Sumnall (Liverpool John Moores University), Peer van der Kreeft (University College Ghent), Vladimir B. Poznyak MD (World Health Organization) and Zili Sloboda ScD (President of Applied Prevention Science International).

H. E. Dr. Hamad Abdullah Al Ghafri, Director-General of NRC, welcomed this year’s delegates, saying: “This conference seeks to build a global network of strategic partnerships between organisations and specialists in the field of substance use disorders. It constitutes a unique opportunity to share knowledge about scientific and research developments in this field, as well as up-to-date effective interventions and the best practices. The conference is the first event of this magnitude in the field of substance use since the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic.”.

Special sessions highlighting major global challenges are scheduled for this year’s conference. Sessions on drug policy will help fill knowledge gaps and move forward public policy debates on important subjects including advocacy, the development of national-level quality assurance policies and controls, the role of law enforcement in school-based prevention, and much more. The role of civil society in promoting drug demand reduction policies will also be discussed.

Sessions on substance use treatment will showcase international research into improving best practice and outcomes for clients. Crucially, this will provide an international platform for new thinking on what works in treating clients involved with the justice system, and how to unlock opportunities for treatment as an alternative to incarceration. The event will also host the official launch of the International Care Quality (ICQ) Consortium on Friday 13th May.

Promoting high-quality education and training in the field of addiction prevention and treatment is vitally important and universities will play a central role in generating evidence and high-quality research in this area.

Dr. Michal Miovsky, president, ICUDDR, lauded the partnership between research and practice represented at this meeting, adding that: “Combining policy makers, practitioners, and scientists/educators to learn and work together to address alcohol and drug use issues provides a unique opportunity. In much of the world policy and practice is driven by mistaken beliefs rather than what current science tells us is best practice. We must work together to ensure we are addressing these problems effectively and efficiently.”

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs is working tirelessly to professionalise the international prevention, treatment, and recovery support workforce through its support of organisations such as ISSUP; the development of the Universal Curricula; connecting key international organisations; and promotion of the uptake of evidence into professionalisation and ultimately practice.

James Walsh, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at INL, commented: “INL is proud of our partnership with ISSUP and we’re grateful for the UAE’s generous hosting of this event. We look forward to the informative and dynamic discussions during this conference. As we, in the United States, know all too well, substance use is a global issue and requires global commitments and solutions.”

Over the past eight years, the annual conference of ISSUP and its partners has evolved into one of the most important international platforms for professionals working in this field to meet and discuss frontier thinking about current challenges. More than 1500 professionals, practitioners and academics are scheduled to take part this year.


Notes to editors:

Where: The conference will be presented at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), a world-class conference facility with 12 separate conference halls and 21 meeting rooms. A stream of virtual sessions and presentations will be provided. Conference website. Conference programme.

When: May 12-16, 2022. Opening ceremony May 12th at 9:00 AM UAE / 6:00 AM London

Who: Speaker listings, images and biographies are available here.

Press Contacts:

For enquiries or to schedule interviews with speakers, please contact:

  • ISSUP/ICUDDR: Olivia Woodrow, T: +44 7733 802803, E: olivia [dot] woodrow [at] issup [dot] net
  • NRC: Dr. Saif Ahmad Salem Darwish, T: 023060111, E: saif [dot] darwish [at] nrc [dot] gov [dot] ae
  • INL: Alessia Dinkel, Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy Team Lead, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Email: DinkelAA [at] state [dot] gov

About ISSUP: The International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP) was established in 2015 to connect, unite, and provide knowledge to the global substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery support workforce. ISSUP has over 24,000 members worldwide.

About ICUDDR: The International Consortium of Universities for Drug Demand Reduction (ICUDDR) was established in 2016. Its purpose is to facilitate networking among universities to promote high-quality education and training in the field of addiction prevention and treatment.

About NRC: The National Rehabilitation Center (NRC) was established upon the insightful directives of His Highness the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 2002 to establish a national addiction response centre for the United Arab Emirates. The NRC is mandated for prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research for drug and alcohol addiction.

About INL: U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.