Drink and Drugs and Krakow’s Kids

A survey of almost 4,000 children and young people in Krakow – some as young as nine – has revealed that alcohol and illegal drugs such as cannabis are growing in popularity among the city’s youth.

The City of Krakow carried out the survey among primary and secondary school pupils. The anonymous questionnaire revealed that at least some of the respondents had used cannabis, Ecstasy, LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, amphetamines, heroin and cocaine. Of 3,738 pupils from 67 schools surveyed, only 619 said they had never tried either drugs or alcohol. Some 2,747 children said they felt that mixing drugs and alcohol was safe, and 2,555 were aware of the different types of illegal drugs available.

City officials told the newspaper Gazeta Krakowska that they believed the survey showed a ‘true picture’ of the drug culture among Krakow’s youngsters – because they were able to guarantee anonymity to those who took part, offering assurances that neither school staff nor parents would be privy to the information.

Adam Chrapisiński, director of the Centre for Addiction Prevention, blamed the problem on a lack of parental control, saying: “More and more students are turning to alcohol and strengthening its effects by using psychoactive substances. The reason is too little parental interest in their children’s welfare, and the lack of positive authority that young people can emulate.”

Mr Chrapisiński added that the age at which children started to drink alcohol was continuing to fall – and said some as young as nine had already tried it. This was despite what he said were ‘substantial preventative activities’ by health workers, and ‘considerable’ financial input into campaigns to prevent underage drinking and drug use.

The legal drinking age in Poland, in line with much of the rest of Europe, is 18. However, many clubs, pubs and bars in Krakow’s city centre operate an over-21 policy. The drugs referred to the in survey remain completely illegal in Poland – although recently, parliament issued new guidelines regarding the possibility of treatment rather than automatic prosecution for people arrested in possession of small amounts of cannabis. A precise definition of ‘small amount’ has not yet been arrived at.

Of 3,738 young people who took part in the survey, the usage breakdown was: Alcohol 1,545; Cannabis 260; Ecstasy 12; LSD/Magic Mushrooms 20; Amphetamines 64; Heroin 37; Cocaine 7.

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