UN urges schools to tackle drugs

One of the United Nations’ top drug officials has told Kathimerini that more needs to be done around the world to inform children about the dangers of taking illegal substances. Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and director-general of the United Nations Office in Vienna (UNOV), was in Greece this week for talks with government ministers. Costa admitted that although progress had been made in tackling the global drugs problem, there was still a long way to go. «In general terms, the situation is stable,» Costa told Kathimerini. «There have been improvements in some countries such as the USA, where the use of cocaine has dropped. But in Europe its use has gone up, although the use of heroin is lower. The situation in Eastern Europe and Russia is worse though.» Costa stressed the importance of children being educated about the dangers of drugs and suggested that more countries should consider introducing drug tests for schoolchildren. Costa said he was particularly worried about the growing use of cannabis by youngsters who feel that the drug will not harm them. The UN official said that much more potent forms of the drug are being produced in laboratories. Costa also visited a unit run by the Organization Against Drugs (OKANA), where drug addicts are weaned off their addiction with the help of methadone. «It was quite impressive to see 600 users coming for treatment in an orderly and dignified manner,» said Costa. The head of OKANA, Costis Ballas, pointed out that drug users in Greece had to wait four years for methadone treatment, whereas the waiting time in Britain is three weeks.

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