Drugs available to young Latvians

  • 2000-04-06
  • By Jorgen Johansson
RIGA – The drug users in Latvia are getting younger all the time and are not content with just sniffing glue and drinking alcohol anymore. Lately there has been an increase in usage of hard drugs like heroin. It is difficult to say exactly where the youngsters get hold of their supplies, but one place where you are sure to buy it is in the larger schools in Riga, according to doctor Inga Landsmane, who works at the Narcology Center in Riga.

She takes care of children every day and has noticed more youngsters switch to hard drugs like heroin or psychedelic drugs. On March 21, a woman in Riga took her 11-year-old daughter to the Narcology Center to have her tested for drugs. Tests showed the presence of four various substances in the little girl's body: opiates, amphetamine, barbiturates and hashish or marijuana, laboratory senior assistant Irena Japina confirmed.

The mother said the girl had been very nervous, aggressive and rude for a long time and was not attending school. The mother also said she was afraid the girl could hurt her younger sister. Traces of syringe pricks were also noticed on the girl's veins. This eleven-year-old girl is the youngest drug addict registered in the Drug Rehabilitation Center in Latvia.

The average age of the children who turn up at the Narcology Center is 13 to 16 and there are just as many boys as girls.

"They all say they buy it in school. We are trying to inform the children about the dangers in using drugs," said Landsmane.

The youngest child Landsmane has met who used drugs was only 13 at the time.

Problems with youngsters suffering the needle chill has not passed the UNICEF unnoticed. Ilze Dofskina, the executive director on the national committee for UNICEF, said the problems start in dysfunctional families.

"We know of families where 4 to 5-year-olds sniff glue, but more and more of them are going over to heroin," she said.

"The heroin is coming to Latvia from Afghanistan through Russia and only 5 percent is stopped in customs," she explained.

Dofskina is also saying, they can buy it [drugs] in any of the big schools during lunch breakes and at discos.

However, the schools in Latvia are unwilling to face the problems they might have with some of their students, fearing reactions from parents and most likely politicians. Many schools in Latvia already have problems with humidity and heating, affecting all of the students, decreasing the interest for the minority who use drugs.

"None of the schools will say that they have a drug problem. They don't want to look bad and in the meantime children who use drugs and their parents are suffering," Dofskina said.

Statistics show that school youth make up almost one-fourth of all the usuage and drug addiction cases registered last year.

"We don't have such a problem and there is no reason to talk about it because the problem doesn't exist," said Arturs Damlics, the director of the central high school.

In order to urge parents to check whether their children use narcotics or psychedelic drugs, the State Drug Rehabilitation Center launched a special campaign on March 27. During the campaign, testing will be conducted for lower prices.

Irena Japina noted that there are many parents who suspect that their children might be using drugs but cannot verify it due to a lack of money.

However, there are some things that parents can do that won't cost anything.

"The parents have to pay more attention to the kids. See if they have pocket money or if things are missing in the house," said Dofskina.