Contribution to the study of drug dependence among young people in Caracas

Sections

Introduction
Results of enquiry
Acknowledgements

Details

Author: Misses A. DEVIA, , Z. DUERTO,, A. ROJAS, E. SANGRONIS, , G. SCHIAVINO , Asdrúbal Lárez ALBORNOZ
Pages: 45 to 53
Creation Date: 1976/01/01

Contribution to the study of drug dependence among young people in Caracas *

Misses A. DEVIA,
Z. DUERTO,
A. ROJAS,
E. SANGRONIS,
G. SCHIAVINO *
Dr. Asdrúbal Lárez ALBORNOZ **
Chief Department of Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Central University of Venezuela, Caracas

Introduction

If we were to accept as true the news items and statements offered to the public for some time past through the media by individuals, organizations and agencies, both qualified and unqualified, and not all of them connected with the complex problems of drug dependence among youth, our conclusion would be that a majority of the young in Caracas have taken drugs. However, bearing in mind the frivolous, alarmist or demagogic attitudes that are often adopted in Venezuela to draw attention to the problems, and the lack of sound statistical studies on which to base any scientific judgement, the existence of this much-publicized state of affairs is open to doubt.

Nowadays, everyone is talking about drugs; they have become the main topic of conversation throughout Venezuelan society, and as a result the problem is exaggerated out of all proportion. However, realizing that it exists and believing that only a minority of young people take drugs, the toxicology students at the Faculty of Pharmacology of the Central University of Venezuela, under the guidance of Dr. Asdrúbal Lárez Albornoz, who is the head of the department, suggested the present survey as a means of throwing some light on this thorny issue.

On the basis of a prepared questionnaire interviews were conducted in 1974 with a random sample of 100 drug takers and 100 non-drug takers, the latter being the control group. The inquiries were conducted without any intimidation or prejudice, and the 200 persons who agreed to be interviewed for the survey showed the utmost co-operation. We have therefore every confidence in the replies to the questions. Without attempting to reach any final conclusions, we hoped in this way to give some idea of the problem. Comments are given on the results, and recommendations are put forward which may be useful in the study of drug abuse which seems to be spreading to all parts of the world, as yet another symptom of the social malfunctioning of contemporary society.

Results of enquiry

The majority of the drug takers are between 18 and 22 years of age. This is just the age for taking decisions knowingly, embarking upon new ventures, behaving unconventionally and seeking pleasurable sensations; an age at which companionship with kindred spirits is necessary and failures or difficulties may lead the individual to seek escape or help through drugs.

* Drafting Committee.

**Co-ordinator.

Full size image: 12 kB

NOTE. Drugs taken in the order of popularity: Marihuana, LSD, Cocaine, Barbiturates, Methaqualone, Amphetamines, Morphine, Heroin, Hashish, Mescaline, banana skin, Optalidon, Equanil, gasoline.

 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Sex
   
Male
76 76
Female
24 24
Civil status
   
Single
93 80.6
Married
7 19.4

The percentage of drug takers seems to be higher among the single than married persons and also higher among men than women.

 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Educational level
   
Baccalaureate
60 65.4
University
26 26.5
Primary
12 8
Technical
2
4.1
 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Status of employment
   
Student
62.2 63
Employed
27.3 37
Unemployed
10.5 0
Type of school
   
Private religious school
37 33.8
State school in Caracas
33.8 33.1
Private lay school
18.9 17.6
State school outside the capital
10.3 15.5

The majority of the drug takers and non-drug takers are students. It is believed that group pressures operate and that constraints to which students are subjected, particularly at a strict institution, bring about a situation in which drugs represent an escape. The takers included a small percentage of unemployed (10%), while there were no unemployed among non-drug takers.

 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Economic situation
   
Good
50 31.3
Fair
39 66.6
Bad
11 2.1

A large proportion of the drug-takers are reasonably well off; this is an important point because it means that they can easily buy drugs.

 

Drug taker (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Type of dwelling
   
House
51 42.8
Apartment
49 57.2
Location
   
Residential area (well-to-do-strata)
83 83.5
Barrios (lower middle class and poor strata of society)
17 16.5
Family situation
   
(i) Attention given by parents
   
Fair
33 27
Average
31 18
Constant (total)
26 54
None
10 1
(ii) Persons responsible for upbringing
   
Father and mother
37.9 59.2
Mother
35.1 18.1
Father
3.7 1.76
Relatives, nurse etc.
19.6 18.5
No one
3.7
1.76

Although "fair" and "average" attention given by parents to their children was higher among drug takers, parents' "constant" attention was significantly higher in the control group; vice versa parents "non-attention" was higher in the group of drug takers.

 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Civil status of parents
   
Married
68 82.1
Separated
25 9.4
Widowed
5 8.4
Single
2 0.0

The proportion of separated parents is higher in the drug-taking group. The family is undoubtedly an important factor, since it is the social unit which sets an example of cohesion and understanding in the search for the right kind of life.

 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Differences with parents
   
Yes
73.4 48.5
No
26.6 51.5

A higher percentage of drug takers than non-takers are not identifying themselves with their parents. Lack of communication between members of the family and their failure to understand and appreciate each other's problems lead to tension, frustration, unconventionality and rebellion, which can be the forerunners of drug taking.

 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Some personal problems
   
Frustration
41.6 16.2
Ambition
27.9 52.6
Inhibitions
21.4 18.2
Prejudices
9.1 23

As regards personal problems the drug takers show less ambition than the control group but far more frustration. The latter may be one reason why they turn to drugs.

 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Cigarillo smoking
   
Yes
90.7 50
No
9.3 50

The smoking habit is more widespread among the drug takers. The high percentage of drug takers amongst smokers may be explained by a desire to imitate which the parents may unconsciously and irresponsibly have encouraged since childhood in a distant way. The habit could easily prelude drug consumption.

 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Use of alcoholic beverages
   
Yes
53.1 46.2
No
46.9 53.8
Use of alcoholic beverages and cigarette smoking prior to drug use
   
Yes
82.6  
No
17.4  
Cigarillo smoking by parents
   
Yes
58.2 44.8
No
41.8 55.2
Drinking by parents
   
Yes
54 36.1
No
46 63.9

The fact that parents drink alcoholic beverages and smoke cigarettes may in itself influence drug consumption.

 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Activities
   
(a) Political
   
No
89 84.3
Yes
11 15.7
(b) Sports
   
Yes
51 80.1
No
49 19.9
(c) Cultural
   
Yes
53 27
No
47
73

A high proportion of the drug takers do not practise any sport, in contrast to the control group. Sports offer a possible solution to the problem in view of the ancient adage of mens sana in corpore sano. A feature of interest is the larger percentage of persons with artistic gifts in the drug taking group as compared to the control group. This might be due to the efforts made to popularize drugs as a means of developing artistic talent through self-discovery.

 

In percentages

Drugs used
 
Marihuana
31.6
LSD
19.8
Cocaine
15.8
Barbiturates
10.4
Methaqualone
9
Amphetamines
8.1
Morphine
5.5
Heroin
3.1
Hashish
1.8
Mescaline
0.9
Banana skin
0.9
Optalidon
0.4
Equanil
0.4
Gasoline
0.4

Marihuana, LSD and cocaine are the most popular drugs at present; consumption of opiates is low. Although this is comforting, it should put us on our guard; Venezuela, unlike some other countries, has not yet faced the challenge of high opiate consumption, and must therefore be on the alert to prevent opium use from increasing.

 

Drug takers (%)

Sensations on first using drugs
 
(a) Unpleasant
 
Yes
37.9
No
62.1
(b) Pleasant
 
Yes
91.2
No
8.8

The users generally experience pleasant sensations the first time they take drugs, and try to recapture this pleasure by changing from one drug to another.

 

In percentages

Reasons which led to drug use
 
Curiosity
47.9
Search for new sensations
17.5
Escape
7.8
For pleasure
6.1
Imitation
4.7
Rebellion
4.1
To follow the fashion
3.3
Group pressure
3.3
Desire not to conform
3.3
Protest
2

The foremost reason for taking to drugs is curiosity, followed by the search for new sensations and then the desire for escape. Curiosity being the most significant factor in drug consumption, the reasons underlying the curiosity should be investigated, since it is probably being aroused unconsciously.

 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Purpose of use
   
None
23  
To achieve a feeling of well being or pleasure
17.5  
Liberation
16.3  
New experiences
10  
To forget about problems
8.7  
Escape
7.5  
To see a different world
5  
To fill a void
5  
Distraction
3.8  
To find oneself
2.5  
How drugs were obtained
   
For the first time
   
From friends
55.2  
As a result of a personal decision
30.4  
As a result of publicity
14.4  
On subsequent occasions
   
Purchases
57  
Given by friends
43  
Social status of friends
   
Middle class
51.5 68.8
Rich
26.1 13.6
Poor
22.4 17.6
Drug use by friends
   
Yes
80.2 27.4
No
19.8
72.6
 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Place where drugs were obtained
   
Central area
25  
Street
24  
Schools
20  
Barrios
11  
Parties
10  
Discotheques
5  
Outside Caracas
2  
Abroad
2  
Beaches
1  

In the majority of cases drugs are first obtained through friends As regards the places where they are obtained, premises in central areas rank first, followed by the street and then schools It is interesting that schools should come third as a source of supply, because Caracas schools were once accused of being the focal points for drug consumption, and the survey shows that students, especially at secondary schools, are the main consumers among the groups surveyed However it would seem that effective control measures have been set up in schools, or else that the allegations made some time ago were untrue

 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

Persistence of pleasant sensations
   
Yes
50.6  
No
49.4  
After increasing the intake
   
No
68  
Yes
32  
After changing drugs
   
Yes
60  
No
40  
Drug education received on the risks of drug use
   
Yes
68.4 74.4
No
27.3 21.3
Some
4.3 4.4

The control group was better informed than the drug takers about the risks involved in drug consumption.

 

Drug takers (%)

Non-drug takers (%)

In favour of the legalization of drug use
   
Yes
65.6 8.5
No
34.4 91.5
In favour of punishment for offences committed under the influence of drugs
   
Yes
73 71.2
No
27 28.8

The majority of takers and non-takers agreed that anyone who commits an offence under the influence of drugs should be punished

 

Drug takers (%)

Engaged in drug trafficking
 
No
66.2
Yes
33.8
Efforts to stop drug use
 
Yes
80.2
No
19.8
Total cessation of use
 
No
64.9
Yes
35.5

It is encouraging that a very high proportion of drug takers should have dropped the habit Even though some have failed to do so, it means that steps should be taken to facilitate and encourage the social rehabilitation of drug takers.

Acknowledgements

We should like to express our most sincere thanks to all those persons, whether drug users or not, who kindly agreed to collaborate in this survey by replying to the questions addressed to them in the course of the enquiries undertaken