Author: Camiel Petterson
In The Netherlands, soft drugs and alcohol are easily available to persons over the age of 18 (NL Netherlands 2020). This includes marijuana, psychedelic truffles, tobacco and alcoholic beverages (Reynolds 2020). Current trends show that the Dutch youth (aged 15-34) are the highest users of soft drugs; similar trends can be seen in other drug categories. In fact, recent projections show that 17.7% of this youth population have tried marijuana in the last year, where more use is predicted in males (EMCDDA 2018). This poses a key risk as popular debate has come to rise whether it is a ‘gate way drug’ as usage can result in users looking for a bigger kick (NIDA 2018).
Dangerous Consequences for the Youth
Youth usage of drugs, especially if chronic, can result in damages in mental performance (Kuyt 2020). Recent studies have highlighted that frequent marijuana usage can result in “cognitive and intellectual” declines (Winch 2012). Likewise, early youth usage can also result in addiction. Reasons for this early usage vary but are often attributed to peer pressure, media publicity, regional prevalence and family upbringing (Anaheim Lighthouse 2018). Starting with prevention early on in children’s lives can potentially help prevent a large amount of people from falling into the trap of drug addiction.
The Situation in the Hague
Studies showing the variations in high risk drug use in the Netherlands saw The Hague having the 2nd highest number of problem hard drug users of all Dutch cities (Margriet et. al. 2009). Similar trends exist in areas such as the Schilderswijk, which show a high drug presence and a lower-income community (Schilderswijk 2018). This area is frequently portrayed in media in relation to drug related crime (AD 2018).
Growing up in such environments can have devastating effects on a child’s ability to perform, especially seeing as these areas are already hindered by educational performances due to failures in the Dutch educational system, leaving certain ethnic groups such as those of Moroccan and Turkish descent to underperform (Driessen and Dekkers 2007). This environment can potentially result in underperforming kids to follow in paths of drug use or dealing like ‘roles models’ in their community. New methods need to be adapted to promote role models that make children aware of these issues and inspire innovation and creativity rather than drug experimentation or dealing.
The Role of Role Models
Role models are already known for their services in helping in recovery of addicts, for whom they are able to set a ‘good’ example (American Addiction Centers 2018). However, role models have been used little when it comes to preventing drug usage. One unique example was covered in the trading cards program, in the US. In this program, exemplary high school students were used to advertise against drug usage by debunking myths of drugs in high school and presenting alternatives rather than usage for the primary school kids. These exemplary students had their own trading cards printed, including their image and inspirational quotes (Harris 1996). In addition, they spoke weekly on how to avoid peer and community pressures. Those students who stood out in terms of behavior and academic success could win the trading cards of the high school students. The results showed an increasing awareness of the reality of usage of drugs in and out of high school and its effects when compared to non-participants (Harris 1996).
Seeing as there are no programs running in areas such as the Schilderwijk, implementing tactics such as a role model program could create alternative paths and teach kids how to avoid falling into drug usage when older. Talking about this early in life is fundamental to reducing the problem and could be the key to reducing the problem hard drug use and dealing already present in The Hague.
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