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Media should not glamourize illicit drugs, UN official tells commission

Media should not glamourize illicit drugs, UN official tells commission

Drug use is too often associated in the media with celebrities rather than consequences, a senior United Nations official said today, calling for a greater press spotlight on the dangers of illicit drug consumption.

Addressing the opening session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) noted an “alarming” rise in some European countries where addiction levels are among the highest in the world, and spoke out against the false glamour associated with cocaine.

“Europe should learn that cocaine is an illicit drug not a status symbol and, if addicts in dark-alleys in New York, Delhi or Moscow are nothing more than ‘junkies,’ the same should be said about those pop stars and models whose shooting and sniffing habits have been celebrated by the press,” he said.

Mr. Costa said output for synthetic drugs seems stable at the global level but warned of the damage meth can do to public health. “The law enforcement challenge is enormous because of availability of precursors, simplicity of manufacturing and short trafficking routes: demand is mostly met within the same country - even the same town,” he pointed out.

“Society at large, and not only drug experts, has a responsibility to reduce demand for drugs,” he said. “We all have a stake in the well-being of our children, colleagues and communities. It is therefore up to us as parents, peers, educators and employers to steer people away from drugs.”

At the same time, he said individuals require broad support. “Acting locally, with a global conscience, governments have the responsibility to follow internationally-agreed drug control policies that are coherent, evidence-based and consistent over time,” he said.

Mr. Costa called for action by the media as well. “Of course, fashion models with notorious drug habits are good press and good marketing. Yet, society should make media understand that it must be part of the solution, not part of the drug problem as it is today,” he said, calling for “more coverage of the damage of meth …and less focus on coke snorting celebrities.”

For its part, he pledged that UNODC would continue to maximize its effectiveness while working to fulfil its mandate.