Youth Substance Use and Misuse: Challenges and Progress

Organized by the Government of Poland, in partnership with the Youth Organisations for Drug Action.

Jan Stola, YODA

Issues of criminalization and partial decriminalization of possession for personal use in Poland. Cannabis is the most popular drug among youth, followed by amphetamines. Number of youth admitted to drug treatment has decreased, although the total number increased. In 2000, possession of drugs was made a criminal offence even for personal use. New law had a very high number of people charged, especially young people.
Many young people started their life with limited job opportunities because of simple drug possession. The law did not impact use of cannabis among youth, and therefore did not reach its objective. Also did not lower the scale of drug-related problems. In 2011, pressure led policymakers to change the law to allow prosecutors to discontinue the case when the quantity of drugs is minor (although “minor” is undefined and requires assessment by the prosecutor). Many cases discontinued each year. Challenges of the new legislation are the lack of definition of minor quantities, and the new law is used to very different extents in different regions. Currently a new bill created by civil society to be voted on by parliament which would set a definition of minor quantities. Since 2008, there was a vast improvement in cooperation between public administration and civil society.

Erik Helderweert, Plug-INN, Belgium
Harm reduction pilot programmes were present in Belgium in the 1990s. Still have NPS and OST. HAT study was conducted, but was too expensive to continue. No youth have been included in harm reduction studies at all. What do we know about young people who use drugs? Underrepresented in drug prevention, research, and treatment. Homeless young people often start to experiment at an early age. 50% of the people accessing NPS started using their first needle before they were 21 years old. Being young, unemployed, and not educated is an increased factor for drug use. See social support as preventing harm for young people who use drugs.

Irena Molnar, Serbia
In 2014, research was conducted in Serbia titled “Clubbing and youth health.” Results showed that drug use among youth is very common. Young people lack harm reduction tools and are unprepared to face the risks of drug and alcohol use. 1 out of every 10 people taking the survey had tried a substance without knowing what it was. Young people who use drugs had a lack of awareness about consequences on health due to drug use. Not getting tested for HIV and Hepatitis C. Believed it would be useful to be informed of harm reduction and safe sexual practices. Research showed we really need harm reduction in Serbia. Serbia has a significant injecting drug user population, many belonging to Roma populations. Challenges Roma youth face in Serbia include discrimination, availability of information regarding drug use health, legal invisibility, and lack of accessibility to health and social systems. There are no specific harm reduction programs in Serbia for youth. It is socially unacceptable for club or nightlife venues to provide harm reduction information, as that seems like they are approving drug use.

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