The Italian Almanac

innocent looking girl

Italian News - June 11

The age at which a substantial proportion of Italian youngsters make their first contact with drugs is getting lower. Currently, children may discover, if not regularly use, hashish at age 13-15, in comparison with the previous five-year period, when the threshold was 16-19 years. It is the same story with deadly cocaine, which secondary students are now encountering at age 15-16. Before 1999, first-time users invariably had a secondary school-leaving certificate safely in their pocket (19-22 years). The average age of habitual drug users is also falling. For hashish and amphetamines, the figure is now 15-19 years, and heroin or cocaine habits start at 15-22 years.

The data concern the five-year period from 1999 to 2004 and are illustrated in the report that the national department for anti-drug policies of the prime minister's office will present to parliament at the end of June. Extracts from the document were released yesterday at the Lazio region Federserd congress in a paper read by the department's director general, Andrea Fantoma. "In some cases, first contact with drugs can take place as early as 11 years, on the borderline between childhood and adolescence when children are still attending middle school. But by 15 or 16, drug use is no longer occasional. Young people take cannabinoids, but not the old-style 1970s joint, which contained a very small dose of active substances. Now, the proportion can be as high as 15-16%. We're talking about boys who do not seem to be at risk because they are doing well at school and play football, and about equally innocent-looking girls."