Users are growing in number and getting younger

The age at which young people start experimenting with drugs is constantly getting lower while sudden deaths from drugs are steadily rising, say Greek studies. The average age for children starting to take drugs is 15. In 1999, 20 to 60 percent of pupils said it was easy or quite easy to obtain cannabis, according to the European research group ESPAD, while 5 to 20 percent said the same of heroin or cocaine and 6 to 38 percent of amphetamines and Ecstasy. Over 14 percent of 15- and 16-year-olds claim to have sniffed glue, as opposed to a European average of 9 percent. The use of narcotics in the general population continues to rise. In 2000, the number of those accused of drug offenses rose by 15 percent (from 12,540 as compared to 10,902 in 1999). Seizures of heroin, cocaine and cannabis also increased. Also in 2000, 303 people lost their lives through drugs use, figures which demonstrate a steady rise in the number of drug-related deaths from 1999, when 265 deaths from drugs were recorded, compared with 245 in 1998. The substance which caused death was heroin in the vast majority of cases (95 percent). One death was due to cocaine use and three to other substances. Most fatalities were recorded in the Attica region (66 percent), with 16 percent being recorded in Thessaloniki. The only bright spot on the horizon is that there has been a slight shift from injecting drugs to the comparatively safer methods of smoking and inhaling. That does not apply to adolescents and young people, among whom injecting drugs has shown an increase, but even here, there has been a reduction in sharing syringes. «Education’s Taleban» was how Katerina Ziridis, president of the European Union of Businesses and Business Owners described the leadership of the Education Ministry, in order to emphasize the conservatism pervading the philosophy behind the amendment.