75 percent of youths have tried drugs

  • 2000-08-31

RIGA (BNS) - A survey by the Riga Drug Prevention Center found that 75 percent of youths in the Latvian capital use drugs on a regular basis or have tried them at least once, and only 25 percent have never tried narcotic substances, survey manager Ilze Korolova told reporters Aug. 23.

The widespread drug use in Riga is primarily promoted by low prices of narcotics, that are on average four times lower than, for example, in Sweden, center head Janis Strazdins said.

"The offer is big and the prices are very low," he said.

The most widespread drug among the youths in Riga is marijuana, which 57 percent of those surveyed used on a regular basis.

"This light drug serves as a 'Trojan Horse' paving the way for other - stronger and more dangerous substances," Strazdins stressed.

Amphetamines are also widespread, cited by 13 percent of respondents while 6 percent named cocaine and 5 percent heroin.

Strazdins stressed that the influence of friends and school mates plays a big role in the rapid spread of drugs. The survey confirms that youths first try the drugs in the company of friends, and that the drugs are most often supplied by a friend or a school mate.

The youths questioned, most of them still students, confirmed that every school in Riga has three to four drug dealers, either amid the students or from outside the school. A quarter of the respondents cited schools as the place where they buy drugs.

They also named some 150 places in Riga where drugs can be obtained, the most active ones including ten highly popular clubs in Riga. Korolova would not say which ones. She said that the Riga City Council and the police have been informed about them.

But most of the drugs are purchased from dealers on the streets.

Most of the youths doing drugs on a regular basis either have a job or go to school. Only 4 percent of them are neither working nor studying. "Therefore a definite picture of a young person/drug addict cannot be drawn because they live normal lives and are not different from the rest," said Korolova.

Most of the youths using drugs on a regular basis come from well-off or average income households.

Survey respondents believe that to improve the situation, all drug producers and dealers should be punished and more effort should be put into informing young people about the influence of narcotics and the health hazards involved.

Only 2 percent of respondents admitted that personal responsibility for one's own actions could change the situation.

The study was conducted in July and 413 youths between the age of 13 and 25 years participated - 57 percent of which were ethnic Latvians and 43 percent belonged to other ethnic groups.