Plight of the impoverished drug addict

U.N. highlights the struggles of developing countries in the fight against drug addiction

Published March 8, 2010 9:05PM (EST)

While celebrities earn notoriety from publicly going into rehab, millions of impoverished drug addicts are being ostracized, do not have access to doctors and are often imprisoned, a senior U.N. official said Monday.

Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, also said the developing world -- already struggling to deal with health, education and unemployment problems -- lacks the treatment facilities and law enforcement to control narcotics.

"Poor addicts -- and there are millions of them -- have been pushed to the margins of society, deprived of medical attention, often exposed to conditions, including imprisonment, that exacerbate their illness," Costa said according to a copy of a speech he delivered at a Vienna meeting of the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

"Strikingly, the addicted rich, singers, models and bankers alike, enter posh private clinics in a deluge of camera flashes -- and amuse themselves in the role of trend setters," he added.

Costa said his office is working with the World Health Organization to achieve universal access to drug treatment and urged governments around the world to protect and respect the human rights of imprisoned addicts and drug users in general.

Separately, Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Washington recognizes that U.S. drug consumption directly affects many countries by supporting illegal markets, production and trafficking and said efforts to provide international assistance would continue.

"All of us have a responsibility to assist our fellow nations, but we recognize that major consuming nations such as the U.S. have a special obligation to do so," he said according to a copy of his opening statement delivered at the meeting.

In an apparent show of Washington's resolve to fight drug problems, Glyn Davies, chief U.S. delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that on Friday he briefly met with his Iranian counterpart -- Ali Asghar Soltanieh -- who currently chairs the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

"It is in our interest to participate in the CND," Davies said. "We are very happy to work with the chair even if he is from a country that we have differences with."

The U.S. and Iran do not have diplomatic relations and Washington considers the country a state sponsor of terrorism.

By Associated Press

MORE FROM Associated Press

Related Topics ------------------------------------------