Hamid Ghodse, an INCB member, said: "There should not be any difference between a celebrity who is breaking the law and non-celebrities."

INCB urged governments to pay more attention to high profile drug abuse cases, saying the glamorisation of drug abuse is especially relevant for young people who are "often most vulnerable" to the cult of celebrity.

'Wrong messages'

Ghodse said: "Not only does it give the wrong messages to young people, who are often quite impressionable, but the wider public become cynical about the responses to drug offenders."

The warning comes amid a string of highly publicised examples of British celebrities being investigated in connection with drugs.

In February, singer Amy Winehouse was questioned, but not arrested, by police in connection with a video which appeared to show her smoking crack cocaine.

In October 2007, she was detained in Norway for possession of cannabis.

Winehouse received a fine, which she is planning to appeal against.

Kate Moss incident

The model Kate Moss faced allegations three years ago that she had been using cocaine, but Britain's Crown Prosecution Service announced in 2006 that she would not be charged over the allegations.

Doherty has avoided jail for drug offences on several occasions.

Ghodse said: "A number of people  have got a lenient response in the UK and around the world."

Britain is one of the countries with the highest cocaine use in the EU, along with Italy and Spain, the UN report said.

British interior ministry figures have shown that cocaine use in England and Wales rose from two per cent to 2.4 per cent in 2005 to 2006 for 15 to 64-year-olds.