Illegal substances

Children are taking more drugs and starting earlier. Despite all the warning signs in recent years, the state has paid little attention. Matsa told Kathimerini that the age at which children start using illegal substances has fallen to below age 12, which has very grave consequences, including the likelihood that they will move on to hard drugs such as heroin. Over one-third of those applying for the KETHEA drug rehabilitation programs in the past seven years had started using substances before they reached the age of 15. Statistics from the Mental Health Institute show that one in seven Greeks aged 14-17 has used an addictive substance at least once, «This indicates that children have been psychologically damaged at a very early age,» said Matsa. «And those traumas arise primarily from psychological, physical and sexual abuse by the family. Children today have difficulty functioning and expressing themselves. They are lonely; they do not believe in themselves; they have a lot of anger. They experience a childhood marked by a great deal of violence and a great deal of loneliness. We load them with consumer goods, but not with contact, dialogue and feeling.» Resorting to substance abuse is in fact a form of Russian roulette, she explained. «They play, even though they know where it will end. But the world they live in doesn’t suit them, and they have to fill their heads with something.» Experts are very worried by the phenomenon of drug gangs using children as dealers. Recently police near the Acropolis caught a boy of 15 who had been enlisted by a gang to distribute a large quantity of drugs downtown. In the 2005-2006 judicial year, the Athens Minors’ Court sentenced 35 minors, 29 of them of Greek nationality, for drug offenses.