Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health

Substance Use among European Students: East - West Comparison between 1995 and 2011

Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health

Substance Use among European Students: East - West Comparison between 1995 and 2011

Article excerpt


Drug situation in Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s varied between countries of former Eastern Bloc (FEB) and the West European countries (WEST). Initially, FEB mostly experienced problems with alcohol and tobacco. Difficulties with illegal drug use were much less prevalent. For example, Poland and the Czech Republic were challenged by home-made drugs such as "compote" heroin from Poland (a mixture of opiate alkaloids) ( 1 ), and "pervitin" (a methamphetamine "cooked" from ephedrine) in the Czech Republic (2). The character of substance misuse in the rest of Europe was different. It is possible that the problems with alcohol and tobacco may have been alleviated by increases in its price, tax and other forms of alcohol and tobacco market regulation (3, 4). Elowever, the black market with illegal drugs still flourished in these countries at those times.

It appears that the "Iron curtain" served not only as a political, economical and cultural division but also as a barrier for supply and demand of legal and illegal drugs. It was to be expected that the changes in social, political and economic systems would affect the character and severity of substance use and misuse in FEB. During this period, the drug prevention, new and drug-specific treatments, harm reduction and aftercare were not yet well developed. For these reasons we anticipated substantial vulnerability among our youth.

The increase in drug use has started since 1991 in vast majority of FEB countries and it was firstly documented by the Pompidou Group (5). It is believed that the fall of socialistic regimes, the beginning of civil war in former Yugoslavia, its partition and the post-war situation could have contributed to this increase. Consequently, the drug supply and demand increased, fed by drug smuggling via the Northern branch of Balkan route. Initially, FEB appeared to serve as transit states, but most of them very soon have become user states. Initially, black market appeared to be dominated by heroin, later on with cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy and other synthetic drugs, leading up to present day new synthetic drugs.

The lack of preparedness of health, school and law enforcement systems to quickly and effectively handle this new situation created by drug smuggling and sudden availability of illegal drugs on black market was a common denominator in vast majority of FEB (6).

The initial idea to study differences in onset of drug use between the two groups of European countries developed thanks to an observation of opposite drug use trends between some FEB (earlier age of onset of drinking and smoking) and WEST countries (later age of onset) during the Scientific Committee Working Group (further only Group) of the European Alcohol and Elealth Forum. The main task of the group was to investigate the impact of marketing advertisement on the volume of alcohol intake and drinking patterns of young people (7). Elowever, the advertisement of legal drugs was not the only possible factor contributing to the above mentioned earlier onset of smoking and drinking.

Many studies analysed the effects of various types of advertisements of alcohol and other drugs on young people. These investigations looked at the relationship between early onset of drinking and drug use later in life. For example joint effect of exposure to advertising at grade 6 was predictive of grade 7 drinking and intentions to drink (8). Another study demonstrated the connection of alcohol use displayed in movies and early onset of drinking (9). Similar phenomena of early onset of substance use under 13 years of age were observed among youth in some FEB countries. A backward comparison of the Elealth Behaviour of School Children (HBSC) and the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD) surveys in Poland can serve as an example (10).

Sudden transit of illicit drugs through once impassable borders in FEB after 1989 influenced new generation born one decade prior to or just before these changes. …

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