Students' Attitudes regarding Substance Abuse and Preventive Actions of the Police

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Summary - The aim of this paper was to examine the attitudes of the first year high school students in Zagreb regarding substance abuse and preventive actions of the police. The research was conducted by a questionnaire on the cohort sample of 15 schools in Zagreb with a total of 1220 children. In the monitored sample, 61.1% of the subjects said they noticed their companions wanted to try drugs out of pure curiosity. These data suggest that young people are still not informed well enough on the harmfulness of taking drugs. However, regardless of the »natural curiosity« of these children who very often want to experience everything around them on their own skin, these data would be certainly different if they were better informed. 23.1% of the children questioned said they noticed their friends had taken drugs because of family problems. There are 458 (37.5%) children who would call the police if they got into trouble with drugs. As far as those children who would not call the police if they got into trouble with drugs, their number is significantly bigger. 712 (58.4%) children would not call the police. Sixty subjects would not call the police because they think the police cannot help them, 131 children said they do not trust the police, 233 are afraid of punishments or they are ashamed, 56 would first call their parents, 14 would contact an expert. With this paper we would like to stress the contribution of the prevention programmes carried out by the police in high schools to the development of positive attitudes of students towards the police and their role in the society. The prevention programmes offered by the police represent proof of their effort to understand the young and their problems.

Key words: drugs; the youth; adolescence; education; the police; Zagreb

INTRODUCTION

The American Psychiatrie Association and the World Health Organization define drugs as every substance that if taken into organism can modify one or more functions.1,2 Sakoman defines drugs as different chemical substances of natural or artificial origin, with psychoactive activity which lead to addiction.3 One of the key words in this paper is, besides drugs, young people in adolescence. This phase of human life is often characterized by curiosity. Young people during adolescence pass through different changes, both psychophysical and sociological changes. Those changes bring with themselves possible risks of deviant behaviour, as the mentioned drug experimenting is. The total percentage of children who used drugs is as high as 9.1%, which is very worrying. When asked whether using drugs was a pleasure, 80% of the young from this sample said it was not. This piece of information points to the thesis suggesting that for the majority of adolescents taking drugs is only an escape from their real life, a life full of problems and frustrations, especially if they do not have a stable family. Young people are naïve in believing that if they only try some of the drugs they will not become addicts. Unfortunately, the reality is different. When explaining a possible aetiology of substance abuse in the early phase of adolescence, it would be convenient to state how that phenomenon is seen by the Social Control Theory.4 Supporters of this theory put great emphasis on the process of primary and secondary socialisation, i.e. the life period of adolescence. The main thesis of this theory is that the criminal behaviour is a consequence of the »social bond« weakening. One of the most famous theorists of the Control Theory, Hirschi, says that the four types of »social bond« have a significant role in the society control. The four bonds are attachment, commitment, involvement and beliefs. Attachment refers primarily to parents and children, i.e. the family in the primary phase of socialisation. Cornmitment implies nourishing of values, norms and behaviour acquired in the family. Involvement includes children and young people's activities which distract them from deviant behaviour as well as the belief in the tightness of the moral and dominant norms in the society. …