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close this bookPrevention of Drug Abuse through Education and Information: An Interdiscplinary Responsibility Within the Context of Human Development (EC - UNESCO, 1994, 26 p.)
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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 " way out.

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 people and children.