U.N. wants tougher stance on celebrity drug users

Tue Mar 4, 2008 8:02pm EST
 
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By Peter Apps

LONDON (Reuters) - Prosecutors worldwide are too lenient on celebrities who use drugs, sending a dangerous message to young people, the United Nations said on Wednesday in its global report on illegal narcotics trends.

The U.N. International Narcotics Control Board said overall drug usage appeared stable, but soaring opium production in Afghanistan was fuelling heroin use in its neighbors and globally.

It also warned that drug smugglers were increasingly using West Africa as a transit point to bring cocaine and other substances into Europe from Latin America by air and sea.

The board said too many governments disproportionately targeted ordinary addicts and street dealers while doing too little to tackle the larger narcotics gangs -- and letting high-profile users walk free.

"The fact is that when a celebrity uses drugs, he or she breaks the law," board member and report author Hamid Ghodse told a news conference in London. "Young people are quick to pick up on, and react to, perceived leniency... It also makes people become cynical about drug enforcement."

He refused to name any particular individuals or countries considered too soft on famous users.

To be effective, authorities must get tougher on those at the top of the illicit drug trade, Ghodse said, adding that because this was not easy, many law enforcers chased the easy pickings at the bottom of the pyramid.

Overall, Ghodse said, more coordination across borders was key to cracking the trade. But he said the situation in the world's fastest growing drug producer Afghanistan, now producing more than 93 percent of global opiates, was out of control.   Continued...

 
<p>Amy Winehouse performs via satellite from London for the 50th Annual Grammy Awards held in Los Angeles, February 10, 2008. Prosecutors worldwide are too lenient on celebrities who use drugs, sending a dangerous message to young people, the United Nations said on Wednesday in its global report on illegal narcotics trends. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>