Less and less tobacco, more and more drugs among young people in Serbia

Nikola Marić, Serbia

Every eighth student of the first grade of high school in Serbia tried marijuana, according to the latest research of the Institute of Public Health of Serbia “Milan Jovanović Batut”, which was presented at the professional gathering “Batut Days” on 2018. The results of that research show that the critical period for the first encounter with psychoactive substances is for most students aged 14 and 15.

This research shows the period when young people start experimenting with psychoactive substances. It is a transition between primary and secondary school, which is a key period when there is an increase in experimentation with psychoactive substances. That research showed that, in addition to psychoactive substances, the leading risk to the health of young people is smoking and alcohol.

Batut’s researches showed that 11 percent of students between the ages of 13 and 15 smoke, 12.5 percent of students have tried cannabis, almost every other student has tried alcohol, and a third of students have been drunk at least once in their lifetime.

In the show “For and against”, we talked about how much organized campaigns contribute to young people making positive and negative decisions about harmful substances, as well as what the Government is doing on that issue, and what the medical profession is doing.

Among young people who have ever smoked a cigarette, the largest number of them did so at the age of 15, as many as 34 percent. These results are better than those collected in 2013 and there are more reasons for that. The attractiveness of a healthy life and exercise has increased, and thanks to the Internet and the media, smoking has become much more stigmatized than in earlier times.

Andrijana Obradovic, a student from Paracin, hasn’t used tobacco products for two years, and it took her a long time to figure out how to do it.

“I smoked my first cigarette at the age of 14, which is very early from this perspective. It has always been interesting to me that people around me try to dispel their problems and frustrations by lighting a cigarette and forgetting it for at least five minutes. At the time of puberty, when we all think we are unhappy and have problems, it made me light a cigarette and think it calms me down,” says Andrijana.

When she stopped smoking, Andrijana did it after much thought, pressure from the environment, but here was the main motivation.

“After coming to college, they (parents) didn’t send me money so often, so I had to allocate money for food, hygiene and cigarettes. It was difficult to meet all the needs with a little money. It wasn’t as unbearable as my conscience bothered me because of my parents sending me money. , and they don’t know that I spend it on cigarettes “, explains Andrijana.

We are witnessing numerous anti-smoking campaigns whose results are very difficult to measure. Some research has shown that smokers will not be bothered by warning messages or pictures of the disease on the packs, that they rarely want to listen to the appeals of officials and doctors. Andrijana says that all those actions and campaigns didn’t have any impact on her.

When it comes to drugs, the Trampoline research says that 12.5 percent of first-grade high school students have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime. Among high school students who have ever tried marijuana, the largest number, as many as 46 percent, did it for the first time at the age of 15. This plague, unlike tobacco, has been on the rise since 2013. Of particular concern is the growing abuse of synthetic drugs such as ecstasy, which young people usually don’t consider to be life-threatening drugs, which is completely misunderstood.

Numerous government drug warning campaigns have had very limited effect so far. Penal policy never solves this problem anywhere, so it is clear that it is necessary to return to the roots, and that is a conversation with children and young people.

In the summer of 2018, the Government of Serbia made a decision on the formation of the Commission for the Fight against Drug Addiction in Schools, which will work on raising awareness about the harmfulness of drug use. The emphasis in that fight will be placed on a particularly vulnerable group, and those are school-age children, who are increasingly becoming the target of drug dealers. The task of the commission is to organize a systemic campaign, the goal of which is to increase the awareness of citizens about the harmfulness of narcotics, actually a direct impact on school-age children, as well as on their parents.

The same summer, training teams were formed. It’s predicted that they will see the first results two to three years after that. They haven’t been officially published to date.