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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 March 2008, 06:35 GMT
Warning over celebrity drug use
Pete Doherty, late 2007
Singer Pete Doherty's drug problems have filled newspapers

Dealing too leniently with celebrities who use drugs sends out the wrong message to young people, the United Nations drugs watchdog has said.

Philip Emafo, president of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), warned against treating famous drug users too softly.

When celebrities took illegal drugs, he said, it glamorised narcotics abuse.

His message came as the INCB released its annual report, which also called for top drug dealers to be targeted.

Too many governments target low-level street dealers but do little to tackle big criminal gangs, the report said.

Afghanistan alarm

"Celebrities are often involved in illicit drug trafficking or in illicit drug use and this is glamorised," said Mr Emafo.

Celebrity drug users get off too lightly because we don't want to see our icons fall from grace
Jonathan, London

"If, indeed, they have committed offences they should be dealt with."

The report also expressed alarm at the escalating problems in Afghanistan, which produces 93% of the world's opium.

Abuse of the drug was a major problem for the country and its neighbours such as Iran, which had the world's highest rate of opiates abuse, said the report.

The chemical acetic anhydride, which is used in the production of heroin, was becoming more readily available in Afghanistan, warned the Vienna-based INCB.

It called on neighbouring governments to stop the chemical from being smuggled into Afghan territory.

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