NEWS

Starting age for drugs hits even lower levels

Many drug users who joined Athens’s Strofi Rehabilitation Center last year had their first experience with drugs at the age of 12 or even younger. A continuing drop in the age young people start using narcotics is the most significant, and bleak, conclusion of a study conducted on the adolescent users who approached Strofi for help in 2001. The results of the report were made public on Tuesday at a press conference marking 14 years since the center’s foundation. Family support Strofi registered a total of 238 adolescents – 190 boys and 48 girls – in 2001. Most (37.8 percent) had been brought to the center by their families, while many (26.5 percent) had relied on legal services. With an average age of 17.9 years, most (71 percent) came to the center to cure their heroin addiction. The majority had had their first experience with drugs about five years earlier. The average age at which boys and girls started substance abuse was 13.6 years and 13.8 years respectively. As stressed by Strofi representatives, the age adolescents begin substance abuse has been on a downward trajectory since 1996. Of Strofi’s patients, 64.7 percent first sampled mind-altering drugs between the ages of 13 and 14, while 22.7 percent had their first experience before the age of 12. Specifically, 87.6 percent of the girls first experimented with drugs between the ages of 13 and 15, while 8.3 percent had been younger still. The boys started earlier, with 26.3 percent having experimented with drugs before the age of 12. For most of the adolescents (75.6 percent), cannabis was the first drug they tried, while solvents (glue, petrol, etc.) were the first substances taken by 19.3 percent of the addicts. The average age of those who started with cannabis and solvents was 13.8 years and 12.9 years respectively. From their first experiences with drugs to registration at the rehabilitation center, it had been a downhill road for the center’s male and female patients alike, with cannabis and solvents at 13, pills at 14, skipping school to experiment with heroin at 15, and regular injection of the drug at 16. A total of 73.1 percent of the adolescents said they used a second drug as well, usually cannabis for boys and depressants (pills) for girls, while 55 percent said they used a third drug. Cigarettes and alcohol Most Strofi patients were from the greater Athens area, 27.3 percent lived with one parent, 65.5 percent with both, and for most it was their first effort at detoxification. Nearly all of the patients (97.9 percent) admitted to drinking alcohol and smoking, 73.9 percent had been arrested at least once, and 23.5 percent claimed to have earned over 600 euros per month through illicit activities.