Young people and children
The consumption and increase in consumption of drugs is
indissolubly linked to the development of the consumer society, of which young
people form a very large part. The demographic and symbolic weight of youth and
children in all societies, particularly in developing countries, acts as a
mainspring in the overall growth of consumption, including the consumption of
drugs. In effect, drugs can become a social network for the fragile adolescent
who has been unable to integrate or be integrated into any other network. This
is especially true when these young people are part of the rural exodus.
In this case, it is also important to emphasize the distinction
which should be made between the singular and the global. " Youth " as a general
abstract category does not exist. Young people have to be considered from the
standpoint of their cultural and ethnic specificity and their age group, (for
example, in Senegal, a man of thirty years is still not considered as an adult).
The fragility of this time of transition between childhood and maturity, makes
young people particularly defenseless, especially in societies where
unemployment and exclusion restrict access to autonomous social status. Drugs
can then become a solution to a difficult individual or social situation. In
industrialized and developing countries alike, a value system based on social
success and the consumer market creates conditions wherein some young people
turn to drugs.
"Despite the general lack of statistics (even in the Northern
countries), the World Health Organization estimates that 80 million children
live on the streets and in hidden corners of cities worldwide, mainly in the
Southern countries. Deprived of a childhood, the children of this misery go
headfirst into a world which is no better than that of the grown-ups, which they
will perhaps reach ... Already suffering the handicap of being poor and weak,
the Third world children become today, the frailer victims of the ills of our
era, drug and violence" (10)
(10) In: Revue Interdndances» No.
13, May-June 1993
Economic and social instability which can force children into
the streets, an upsurge in racism and xenophobia, conflicts of ethnic and
religious identity, are all factors which combine to increase the vulnerability
of young people, leading them into risk situations and to seeking the " easy "
At all costs, preventive education for youth and children must
eschew the " satanization of products " current in some information campaigns
which spotlight the harmful effects of consumption on the organism. Such
strategies can lead to converting the use of other products (for example,
volatile solvents like glue, or other chemical products, such as those used in
car paint, which are much more damaging to the body).
These are just some of the factors which go to substantiate the
fundamental importance of UNESCO's action in preventive education for young