New figures released by the Spanish Minister of Health, Elena Salgado, yesterday indicate that drug-taking amongst Spanish teenagers continues to rise at a worrying rate and further confirms the need to revise the National Drugs Initiative.
The figures released yesterday are the result of a survey carried out by the government in secondary schools. Teenagers between 14 and 18 participated in the nationawide survey. According to the results, the number of teenagers who admit to taking cocaine is now four times as high as it was in 1994, and the number of people who smoke cannabis has doubled. 87 per cent of teenagers consider that it is easy to buy alcohol, 64 per cent find it easy to buy cannabis, and 53.8 per cent have no problem in getting sleeping tablets.
Anyone who has teenage children will be particularly worried by the results of this report, although not necessarily surprised.
It is not unusual to see young teenagers smoking at the gates of secondary schools – private and state schools alike – and parents who try to exert more control over this age group will be used to having arguments with 12, 13 and 14-year olds about wanting to “go out” (the kind of argument which we didn’t have with our parents until we were at least 16 or 17). It is not uncommon in Spanish towns to see young teenagers out on Saturday nights, drinking alchohol and smoking cannabis in big groups in parks in a relatively new phenomenon called in Spanish a “botellón” (literally, “big bottle”).
The most worrying thing about the ridiculously high number of young teenagers who take drugs is that they do not see any danger related to it. Maybe this is because cannabis has always been relatively easy to get hold of in Spain, and alot of them have seen their parents smoking it.
Or maybe it is because their parents and teachers don’t explain the dangers to them in terms they can understand. Maybe parents don’t talk to their children enough and don’t have time to find out enough about what goes on at school or when they are out with friends. Maybe what used to be one of Spanish society’s real strong points – the strength of the family unit – has ceased to be. Maybe society needs to think about what to offer this age group so that they don’t start looking for excitement through damaging substances…..
Whatever the reasons, it seems obvious that, given the results of this very comprehensive survey (25,521 school children from 573 schools participated in it), urgent action must be taken – by parents, teachers and government together – to solve this very serious problem which threatens to ruin the lives of thousands of adolescents in Spain.