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Drugs Use Is On The Rise Among Young Czechs

By Sabine Polacek and Wolfgang Jung     Nov 28, 2000 in Technology
Prague (dpa) - For many young people, Prague is the "Amsterdam of the East". Marijuana and cannabis are smoked in clubs, bars and even in broad daylight with little police interference.
Since 1995 alone drug consumption in the Czech Republic has trebled, and the number of drug offences has risen considerably.
Police in 1990 recorded only 140 drugs cases. In 1999, the figure rose to 2,660.
"The era since 1989 has brought freedom but also drugs and the 'agony of choice'," said Prague psychologist Marie Koprivova who treats children and young people.
"At an early age they are turning to marijuana or hard drugs. They give reasons such as worries about the future, uncertainty and lack or perspective."
One 15-year-old secondary school pupil, Krystof Pavelka, said the smoking of marijuana was accepted as "normal" by most people in the country.
"I get angry when people land up in jail for smoking a few joints," she said.
Another high-school student, Martina Haufova, claimed it was nothing unusual for children as young as 12 or 13 to puff a joint during their breaks at school.
Marijuana is smoked freely in clubs and bars in the city, tolerated by the landlords and unhindered by the police "who would otherwise have to arrest half the people in the bar", said Haufova.
However, police maintain that raids do take place regularly, although officers tolerate the possession of small amounts of soft drugs for individual consumption.
A police spokesman said possession of large quantities of drugs could lead to conviction and heavy fines or imprisonment for both Czechs and foreigners.
The Czech parliament last year passed new drugs legislation in an effort to counter the developments of recent years. The social democratic government sees the need to invest in better preventive and therapeutical measures, yet much still depends on private drugs- aid establishments.
As many as six in ten of mainly hard-drug addicts visit the Prague drugs-aid organization "Dropin" every day. It is not rare to see people younger than 16 at the centre.
Dropin founder Ivan Douda said the use of marijuana and other drugs was "apparently a cultural phenomenon" in the Czech Republic.
"The appeal of the forbidden plays a role, as does depression and despair," he said.
Pavel Plechota, director of a centre for children and young people in Prague, agreed, saying values had changed over the last 10 years "from extreme collectivism to extreme individualism".
He added: "Both parents have to work and have no time for their children. Young people look despairingly for success and recognition."
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