People who take drugs should not be described as ‘users’, ‘junkies’ or ‘addicts’, according to a new report.
The assessment calls for terms such as ‘druggie’ and ‘crackhead’ to be phased out.
Media, religious leaders, intellectuals, celebrities and others in influential positions should promote the use of ‘non-stigmatising’ language, the Global Commission on Drug Policy says.
It has drawn up a list of dos and don’ts when discussing drug use.
The commission says a ‘person who uses drugs’ should not be called a ‘drug user’.
Someone with ‘non-problematic drug use’ should not be labelled as a recreational, casual or experimental user, according to the report.
Describing people as having ‘drug dependence’ or ‘problematic drug use’ is appropriate but ‘addict’, ‘junkie’, ‘pothead’, ‘crackhead’, ‘druggie’ and ‘stoner’ are among terms in the ‘don’t use’ category.
Established in 2011, members of the commission include ex-deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations.
Presenting the new report, Sir Nick said: ‘Current drug policies are all too often based on perceptions and passionate beliefs, not facts.
‘Any drug use carries risks, but only a small number of people who use drugs go on to face addiction or dependency. Those who do develop problems need our help, not the threat of criminal punishment.’
The commission’s paper called on opinion leaders to ‘live up to their responsibility in shaping public opinions and perceptions on drugs’.
It said: ‘Media, religious leaders, intellectuals, celebrities and other influencers have the potential to be powerful allies in correcting misinformation surrounding drug use and reducing the stigma towards people who use drugs.
‘In particular, the use of degrading and inappropriate language, such as ‘junkies’, ‘zombies’, and ‘fix rooms’, should be addressed and corrected.
‘They must restrain from further propagating misinformed beliefs which can potentially result in disastrous situations for people who use drugs, their communities, and the most vulnerable parts of society.’
The report also argued that law enforcement agencies must stop ‘acts of harassment’ against people who use drugs, such as ‘intimidation, unwarranted searches, unwarranted seizure of property and racial profiling’.