Last week, the Governmental Board on Coordination of Drug Policy in the Czech Republic published data from the European School Survey on Alcohol and Other Drugs, revealing that every second Czech sixteen-year-old has got some experience with drugs. Not much to be proud of. Even so there are some positive improvements.
The European School Survey on Alcohol and Other Drugs is conducted every four years in thirty European countries. It studies young people at the age of sixteen on their opinions and experiences with drugs. The latest data for the year 2003 was published on Thursday last week. I asked the Head of the Governmental Board on Coordination of Drug Policy Josef Radimecky what were the most surprising results.
"I would not say surprising, because we expected these results, they are confirmed by other studies. But the most exciting result is the decrease in abuse of riskier drugs or the most risky drugs such as heroin and pervitin, which is methamphetamine, and also decrease of injected drugs."
In general the fact that young Czechs strongly disapprove of hard drugs can be considered a significant success. Radimecky and some other experts believe that this trend reflects an impact by the state's prevention program, which focuses mainly on the prevention of heroin and other hard drugs. Still, there are experts who disagree, since the survey has also outlined many negative trends.
Every second sixteen-year-old has got some experience with drugs and more than 80% of them know, where to get them, very often right in school. The abuse of drugs derived from cannabis has almost doubled since 1995, and there is an extreme rise in abuse of ecstasy, which was almost untraceable then.
The survey has also shown that a quarter of Czech sixteen-year-olds smoke tobacco every day. Surprisingly, while the number of young smokers increases, there is a drop in the number of adult smokers. Every seventh or eighth student gets drunk three or more times a month. Beer is the favourite alcoholic beverage for boys but has also become a favourite for girls. They seem to be catching up with boys in other aspects too: the differences between the sexes have grown significantly fewer.
Young people do not seem to respond to legislative measures such as increased sanctions for possession of drugs. Only very few fear legal prosecution. Mr. Radimecky believes, that this is no path to follow. To him, it is important to use the data and transform it into an effective program of prevention.
"There is a proclamation in the National Drug Strategy that drug strategy should be evidence based. I strongly support this idea, we managed and organised this kind of research to support our proposals. At the moment I can say that the politician responsible for drug policy, Mr. Mares, is very supportive and looks at the data and tries to use it in formulation of drug policies. At the moment we have got real political support."
The biggest attention will probably be given to ecstasy: this drug is closely related to the local dance culture. Since the phenomenon of ecstasy abuse is too strong to fight against, the state is at least trying to reduce the dangers of this drug by examining the benefits of testing of the quality of ecstasy available in the clubs by non-governmental organisations.
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