Teen-age drug abuse rockets

21-02-2001

In a report published on Tuesday, the World Health Organization says that drug abuse among 15- to 16-year-old Czechs rocketed over the course of five years. While 23 percent of boys and girls in that age group had experimented with drugs in 1995, by 1999 this figure had reached 35 percent. Olga Szantova reports.

With 35 percent of 15 to 16 year olds admitting to having experience with drugs, the Czech Republic is the second worst country in Europe for teenage drug abuse, just one percent behind the leader, Great Britain. The report, based on findings from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs, states that illicit drug use rose in nearly all the 30 European countries surveyed, except Britain and Ireland. The main reason for large increase in the Czech Republic, is mainly due to rising cannabis use, as the World Health Organization's liaison officer for the Czech Republic, Dr Alena Petrakova, points out

The report does state that one quarter of teenagers with experience of drugs tried marihuana, which, they point out, is an acceptable drug among teenagers, just as alcohol was with their parents when they were teenagers. The current trend, however, is being taken seriously, as experts claim that soft drugs frequently lead to the abuse of hard drugs. The government has approved a national program to combat drug abuse for this and the next three years. The program will focus on prevention, in the hope of reducing the number of teenagers who experiment with drugs.

It's a complicated situation, as past experience has shown. Last year, for example, a 42-year-old primary school teacher was arrested and charged with selling Pervitin, a drug manufactured locally from medicines containing ephedrine. There was no evidence that the teacher actually sold the drug in her own school, but it opened numerous questions. The debate was further intensified by the fact that at the same time, President Havel pardoned a 19-year-old man sentenced to four years in prison for selling 18 joints worth of grass. Some people criticized the sentence for being too high, others attacked the presidential pardon for a case involving drugs, as they said drug dealing is a crime that causes too much damage to be pardonable. Judging by the results of the latest World Health Organization report, action is definitely needed to help combat the problem.

21-02-2001