Number of teenage drug users could be several times higher than official data show
Chisinau, 01 April 2013 The real number of teenagers using drugs is several times higher than shown by the official statistics. Since this phenomenon continues to be hidden and the exact number of juvenile drug users who need help is not known, the government is not investing in new prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs. These are the conclusions reached by the participants in the meeting of 29 March of the network “Journalists – Friends of Children”, organized by the Center for Investigative Journalism with the support of UNICEF Moldova.
Sergiu Tomșa, UNICEF Specialist in Communication for Development, noted that the biggest problem was identifying the teenage drug users. “There is a significant difference between the official statistics and what show the studies and surveys conducted by nongovernmental or international organizations. This means that many drug users remain invisible. When they are not identified by the official system it is hard to justify creating programs especially for them,” Sergiu Tomșa said. According to Mihai Oprea, Director of the Republican Narcology Dispensary, 68 teenage drug users are currently registered and this figure has been continuously decreasing in the past years. Most of them are between 16 and 18 while in the previous years there were drug users of 10 years old registered.
Ala Iațco, Head of the Youth Friendly Health Center “ATIS” from Bălți thinks that the problem of teenage drug use is not as serous as several years ago but rather less visible. “As a rule, young people do not admit being drug users and do not realize this is a problem for them. The number of users registered is only the top of the iceberg,” the expert thinks.
At the same time, the participants noted that neither the adults – parents or teachers – give due attention to this problem or promptly react when they establish that a teenager has started using drugs.
“Many parents prefer overlooking the first alarming signs. Even when the problem is recognized and realized, families do not seek specialized help. The fear of social stigma and labeling forces the family to keep the problem inside,” Ala Iațco says.
The meeting participants mentioned the situation could be changed if the school and social environments were more responsive to the teenagers’ problems. At the same time, they noted that the government should ensure developing special rehabilitation programs for teenage drug users. They are missing now and children are rehabilitated according to adult programs.
According to the experts, teenagers come to use drugs out of curiosity or in order to have fun, due to psychological pressure or out of the need for social acceptance. Most of those using drugs are from urban areas.
One third of teenage respondents noted they received their injecting drug shots in places where more drug users gather. “Usually, because they are younger they are at the end of the queue and if there are not enough needles they inject the drugs after an adult and, accordingly, are more vulnerable to such infections as HIV/AIDS or viral B hepatitis. The survey data show that girls are even more vulnerable as compared to boys. Thus, 30 % of the girls inject drugs using non-sterile equipment, as compared to the boys (12%),” Sergiu Tomșa noted.
Around 86% of the teens surveyed by the Youth Friendly Health Center “Neovita” said they knew someone who used drugs. Every third teenager of those who have tried drugs said they started using them at 15-18 years of age and each fifth – when they were 10-14 years old. Each fifth respondent believes it is easy to get drugs in Moldova.
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