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Monday, January 4, 1999 Published at 11:58 GMT


Drugs Czar slams glitterati

Hard drugs: Fears of glamour image

Drugs Czar Keith Hellawell has accused showbusiness and professional figures of "intellectual arrogance" over the dangers of drugs.

Keith Hellawell: "This is no joking matter"
Speaking on the first anniversary of taking office, Mr Hellawell called on those who believed they could use both hard and soft drugs with impunity to stop creating a fashionable image around substance abuse.

He said casual references to drugs such as cocaine and cannabis created a false impression that drug abuse inflicts no harm.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Hellawell said: "There is this arrogance, I call it an intellectual arrogance on the part of one group of people who feel that they are not causing any damage and that they have every right (to use drugs).

"If they are driving a vehicle or dealing with my pension fund on the dealing floors they could be causing me damage.

"If they are taking drugs in the workplace they could be causing damage."

Mr Hellawell, charged with co-ordinating government drugs policy, said that though many people treated drug abuse as a "joke", it remains for many people "deadly serious".

Recreational context

Mr Hellawell said his first year in the post had achieved a major success in pushing a multi-agency approach to drug abuse up the agenda.

[ image: Keith Hellawell:
Keith Hellawell: "Deadly serious dangers"
He said government agencies could now better recognise the links between drugs and social problems.

Professionals from all areas of government and the community are now working towards new ways of enforcing the law, rather than turning to "simplistic" answers such as decriminalising soft drugs, he added.

"To bring the issue out into an open forum, to recognise that there are many social ills that lead to young people getting involved in drugs, to recognise that some of the young adult culture of getting involved with drugs in the recreational context, is something that I think has not been brought out into the open before," he said.

But he warned of a worrying trend of more and more young people experimenting with hard drugs such as heroin, mirroring developments in the USA.

"The worrying problem that they have is the same that we have, is the growing number of young people in particular who are becoming involved with more dangerous drugs," he said.

"Many will have their first experience of drugs with heroin and substances of that nature."

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