Press Releases

    24 June 2005

    “Value Yourself – Make Healthy Choices” Says UNODC Executive Director

    VIENNA, 24 June (UN Information Service) -- Following is the text of a message from Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, commemorated every year on 26 June:

    There is no sadder sight than that of a young person whose life has been lost to drugs. During my tenure as Executive Director, UNODC, I have met too many teenagers and young adults whose futures have been irrevocably damaged by the use of illegal drugs -- heroin, cocaine, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), marijuana, and the long list of other substances that inevitably destroy health and happiness.

    The good news is that, in many places, drug abuse is declining: in North America, strong anti-drug campaigns and public disapprobation have proved that changing behaviour depends on changing attitudes as well. In other places, where drug abuse is increasing, communities are beginning to understand that lax policies about drugs translate into lax expectations on the part of our young people, a lack of determination, direction and vision.

    All drug abuse is serious; there is no recreational aspect to self-destruction. The countless young men and women around the world who are dedicated to sports understand an important truth -- that good physical health and drug use are incompatible behaviours. “Value yourself… make healthy choices,” may seem to be an obvious insight, but for many young men and women, the message still isn’t clear. The surveys and statistics tell us that millions of drug users around the world still believe that “some drug use” doesn’t hurt anyone at all. This is a notion we have to eliminate, and indeed, in countries where drug policies used to be much more permissive, we are seeing important changes, both in attitude and policies.

    The links between organized crime, drug trafficking, drug consumption, drug money, arms trafficking and terrorism become clearer every day. We know that even the “occasional marijuana smoker” is a link in a much longer and more dangerous chain.  We know that significant numbers of road fatalities involve illicit drugs, as well as alcohol, and that events like “Raves” are more than initiation rites into adulthood -- they are opportunities to lose one’s own life or to cause the death of other innocent people.

    Society’s response to drug abuse has to come from all directions. It must be focused on supply and demand, on prevention as well as treatment. The links between drug abuse and HIV/AIDS are clear, but the poor judgement that drugs perpetuate makes users indifferent to even the greatest risks. Young people learn from example, so the message has to come from parents, teachers, role models, and national leaders who disavow drug use publicly and in their own lives as well. Sports will always remain a powerful and positive alternative to drugs but it’s up to all of us to convince young people that this is true. People like Marcus Rogan, the Austrian swimmer and Olympic champion, are leading this campaign.  They make clear choices, assume responsibility, and challenge the rest of us to follow suit.  When we talk about sports, we are talking about games -- when it comes to drugs, winning and losing takes on a much different meaning.

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