Author: Marija Milic
Coordinator of Direct assistance program among people who use drugs
NGO Juventas

We are witnessing an increasing number of titles in media in Montenegro, related to youth and the use of psychoactive substances, where they are most often in younger adults. What is particularly disturbing is that the reports of the Police Directorate indicate that older juveniles and younger adults are, naturally, still adolescents involved in networks dealing with drug distribution at street level. For some time now, Ngo Juventas is urging the state to deal with prevention and treatment and to provide support to children and youth who are in conflict with the law, as well as those who are users of psychoactive substances (PAS). Drugs are easily accessible, and the state’s response is absent.

Analyzing the data from the ESPAD survey, we can conclude that the situation in our society is worrying. ESPAD is the largest research project in the field of the use of PAS in the world, and the largest single source of data on the use of alcohol and other drugs among adolescents. ESPAD in 2015 encompassed 7238 students from 272 departments of 45 secondary schools from 20 municipalities in Montenegro (1st and 2nd grade secondary school, average age 16.3 years).

When it comes to the perception of the availability of certain substances, during the implementation of this
research in 2015, 27% of young people responded that they would get “easy” or “very easily” cannabis, or 18% ecstasy.

As for the prevalence of the use of certain PAS ever in their life, high school students indicated that 3% of them tried ecstasy, 3% amphetamine, 2% methamphetamine, 3% cocaine, 2% crack, 3% LSD / Other hallucinogens, 2% heroin and 2 % GHB once in a lifetime. So, three years ago, we had alarming data on the growth of drug use ever in the life of first and second grade students of high school, which from 5% in 2005 jumped to 10% in 2015, while in the meantime the system of prevention work with young people did not improve at all.
What is worrying is the prevalence of students who had their first experience with substances by age 13: cigarettes 17% (m-19%, f-14%), daily consumption of tobacco products 3% (m-4%, f-2 %), alcohol 47% (m-58%, f-36%), cannabis 2% (m-3%, f-1%) and ecstasy 1% (m-2%, f-0).
New psychoactive substances are particularly worrying. In the world, a few dozen / hundred new psychoactive substances appear on a daily basis, most of which cannot be detected by standard tests on PAS. It is recommended to adapt preventive programs in primary and secondary schools with the current situation in the country and countries of the region, as well as to use good practices that have proven to be adequate in addressing such problems. This means that you do not close your eyes to the problem, but also offer modern harm reduction programs in places where there is an increased risk of using psychoactive substances. In more advanced countries, young people are also provided with tests to determine the composition of the drug they consume in order to avoid the risk of overdose or fatal outcome.

When it comes to the system of control over new psychoactive substances (NSP), Montenegro is far behind EU countries, and also the countries in the region. The monitoring system thus includes non-governmental organizations that implement harm reduction programs, since those who conduct these activities are in direct contact with people who use drugs and have direct knowledge of new trends. Only synergistic effects can achieve the necessary results. In order to gain a more detailed insight into the use of new psychoactive substances, Croatia has also tracked a series of studies among different target groups, which indicate the most frequent recreational consumption of these substances.

Parents / family members are insufficiently educated and insufficiently interested in being a part of prevention, and knowing further information about NPS, PAS and in general existing prevention programs. In other words, in addition to prevention targeting children and adapting services to young people, programs tailored to parents / family members of primary and secondary school students should be implemented.
In order to raise awareness and inform the pupils and teachers of elementary and secondary schools, through the project “Young health educators”, youth/peer workers and professional workers of Juventas, in the period of October, in several primary schools in Podgorica, held workshops on the topic “Drug prevention”. Pupils and teachers received information about the drug addiction, how the drugs affect the organism and which PAS exist, and how to adequately say NO when it comes to use of psychoactive substances. Pupils and teachers were very interested in engaging in workshops, and agreed that more information about this topic is needed, especially among 6th and 7th grade pupils, due to the earlier start of engaging with psychoactive substances among children.

Finally, in no case should the response to the use of psychoactive substances be repressive, marginalizing or condemning, nor can children, youth, adults using PAS and their families be left to themselves. The quantities of drugs that have been seized lately are a sufficient indication that we are in the midst of a public health crisis that we do not tackle adequately.