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Editorial note
Role of the International Youth Year (1985) in combating drug use problems

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Pages: 1 to 4
Creation Date: 1985/01/01

Editorial note

Editorial note

This double issue of the Bulletin on Narcotics is devoted to the consideration of measures for coping with drug abuse problems among youth , to mark the observance in 1985 of the International Youth Year. The international community has become increasingly concerned about the continuous spread of drug abuse and associated problems among young people, problems which have attained epidemic proportions in most parts of the world. Children and adolescents are now often invilved with drugs at a much earlier age than the past. The initial involvement all too frequently than leads to experimentation with more potent drugs and with more dangerous patterns of abuse. In order to experience stronger effects or to replace a drug of choice that is not readily available, the young frequently resort to multiple drug abuse by taking easily obtainable drugs in various combinations, often together with alcohol, which in turn aggravates the problem. Such self-destructive behaviour severly affects the social functioning of young people, their intelligent and responsible decisiontaking and the ability and motivation to engage in the complex tasks required in contemporary society. It is also well recognized that drug addiction of the young is often associated with crime and other symptoms of alienation, and that addiction to drugs leads to serious health disorders and sometimes to death.

These problems, which seriously affect young people in almost every country, have generated a growing interest on the part of the international community in bringing together information on countermeasures that have been effective in coping with widespread drug abuse. It has been clearly recognized that there is a great need for a more accurate assessment of the nature and extent of drug abuse problems in various social settings, for an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of programmes for youth that have been carried out so far, and for the provision of more research evidence on innovative programmes for youth that have proved to be effective.

In response to General Assembly resolution 34/15l, designating 1985 as "International Youth Year: Participation, Development, Peace" the Division of Narcotic Drugs has carried out a programme of activities in connection with the International Youth Year. Activities initiated prior to 1985 focused on encouraging young people to participate actively in local programmes for the prevention and reduction of drug abuse. To this end, three regional seminars and three follow-up workshops have been held to promote the utilization of community resources, particularly with a view to encouraging the young and other people concerned with neighbourhoods and local communities to help themselves by developing programmes to cope with drug abuse problems. In 1981, the Division published an issue of the Bulletin on Narcotics on drugs and youth (vol. XXXIII, No. 4, 1981). The present double issue of the Bulletin, which includes a range of contributions from various countries and various disciplines, has been prepared as a further contribution to the achievement of the objectives of the International Youth Year.

Following an introductory article on the role of the International Youth Year in combating drug abuse problems, this double issue is divided into two parts. Part one comprises nine articles presenting the results of research carried out in Canada, Egypt, India, Nigeria, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey and the United States of America on the nature and extent of drug abuse problems among youth in specific social settings and, on the basis of the data obtained, suggesting the direction of future trends. Their findings provide a basis for appropriate planning of drug abuse preventive and treatment programmes for the population covered.

Part two consists of 11 articles concerned with the promotion of measures. to prevent and reduce drug abuse among youth. Articles from Burma and from Hong Kong set forth relevant experience gained in drug demand reduction and evaluate the efficacy of the programmes involved. Five articles outline new important knowledge obtained in research studies conducted in Belgium, Chile, Italy, Spain and Switzerland to promote approaches to the prevention and other forms of drug abuse intervention. Two articles deal with medical and legal measures: one from France reviews such measures in respect of pregnant drug-addicted women and their children and the other, from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Compares legal provisions relating to drug abuse prevention in various countries. Two articles from non-governmental organizations, which summarize information on the approaches to the prevention of drug abuse from the perspective of their respective organizations, complete the content of this double issue.

Role of the International Youth Year (1985) in combating drug use problems

UNITED NATIONS SECRETARIAT

The General Assembly of the United Nations has declared 1985 as International Youth Year. The momentum of the International Youth Year and its focus on the concerns of youth presents a rare opportunity of helping to alleviate the problems of drug abuse among young people; new effort by young people to help themselves can be initiated, and new programmes can be implemented for eliminating this modern scourge.

Young people often come into contact with drugs during their child hood or adolescence, when they are not fully capable of weighing the psychological, social, moral and physical implications of their actions. The negative effects of drug abuse on their health are well known. The effects on their outlook, on their motivation and their creativity is devastating.

The use of drugs is often an attempt by a young individual to solve problems of day-to-day living, though by using drugs the individual is in fact fleeing from the real struggles that are required to solve the problems. Various psycho-social and economic factors prevailing in a given social setting may lead to the occurrence of drug abuse among youth. For example, the disintegration of traditional family ties, increased mobility, rapid urbanization and industrialization, which particularly affect the developing countries, are among the factors recognized as being conducive to the occurrence of drug addiction among youth. It has also been recognized that drug addiction among young people is closely associated with juvenile delinquency.

However, the drug problem is one of many issues that the International Youth Year is concerned with. Five years have been devoted to preparing for the Year. The secretariat for the International Youth Year, functioning within the Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs of the Department for International Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, has been involved in helping the creation of national coordinating committees in over 140Countries and in communicating the spirit of the International Youth Year especially to the young but also to the rest of the population. The Year has specific long-term objectives to help improve the situation of young people all over the world. It provides an opportunity for concerted action by Governments, United Nations agencies and bodies, and national and local organizations. A whole variety of activities is thus encompassed within the three themes of the Year: participation, development, peace.

With the co-operation of the regional commissions, regional meetings were held in 1983 to promote the achievement of the objectives of the Year. The meetings recognized that the problems of drug abuse among youth, which had been steadily increasing during recent years, were among the major ills of modern society. Prevention, rehabilitation and research were suggested as the basic approaches to promoting measures against these problems.

With regard to drug abuse prevention, most participants in the above mentioned regional meetings agreed that police action, imprisonment and scare tactics were not effective approaches to long-term solutions. A principal weapon that society can use against drug problems is the power to educate youth and make them aware of the dangers involved. An extensive information campaign, carefully designed to meet the needs of youth in the context of their prevailing social conditions, can help in achieving this goal. Publications and audio-visual programmes on the subject of drug addiction should be prepared for various target groups such as school pupils, university students and out-of-school youth. Programmes related to those topics could be further publicized through the mass media, but such programmes should be carefully selected and prepared to avoid any possible increase in the curiosity of young people to experiment with drugs. With the extensive communication network existing between the International Youth Year secretariat and the national coordinating committees, the International Youth Year can play a useful role in encouraging the development of appropriate information programmes for youth at the local and national levels.

The rehabilitation of drug addicts is the second basic approach to the solution of the drug abuse problems; it involves not only therapy but also readjustment to a normal life and social reintegration into society. Special attention should be paid to the training of young drug addicts in order to facilitate their integration into a productive life so that they can contribute to the development process of society.

Research on drug abuse also plays an important role in both prevention and rehabilitation. Studies on the nature and extent of drug abuse are essential in designing and implementing effective preventive and treatment programmes. A knowledge of the factors leading to drug abuse behaviour among youth, in relation to the prevailing social conditions, can provide valuable information on how to solve the drug abuse problems. Prevention means not only hindering individuals from abusing drugs but also eliminating factors that lead to drug abuse.

International Youth Year provides the unique opportunity to help create an increased awareness of drug abuse problems on the part of young people throughout the world, and to encourage youth to help themselves by developing suitable programmes and by actively participating in such programmes to cope more effectively with drug abuse and associated problems in their communities. The future lies with youth, and Society cannot afford to let young people be lured by the false hopes of drugs.