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22 February 2001 Edition

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Drugs and Generation X

The World Health Organisation revealed this week that Irish teenagers consume more alcohol than any of their European counterparts.

Another survey revealed that 18 per cent of Irish teenagers smoke daily and that 35 per cent of them have experimented with cannabis and ecstasy.

While many commentators have concentrated on the need to curb the sale of these drugs to young people, the problem of drug abuse - especially alcohol abuse - requires far more than a legalistic response.

Disadvantage is the primary cause of substance abuse. The desperate quest for temporary oblivion from harsh economic realities is at the root of both the crisis in alcoholism and heroin addiction.

Undoubtedly, most young people who use drink and drugs to excess are in this category, but there are other societal influences also. One is the prevailing attitude of adult society that alcohol is not a drug and that its abuse is to be tolerated and often admired. The other is the growing pressure to achieve economic success, with little regard to societal wellbeing.

Young people across this island are being manipulated and moulded to support the Irish economy, but the economy is doing very little to support them. Irish society seems to them an arbitrary concept, rather than something in which they are actively involved. Education, as the Provost of Trinity College, Thomas Mitchell, last week complained, is subjected to government pressure to create ``yellow-pack'' college courses geared towards producing functionaries for the Irish economy.

What is also needed is a rethinking of government attitudes towards young people. Living in a society where callous economic interests prevail, is it any wonder that some are becoming more and more alienated?

If we are to create a more healthy youth culture in Ireland, then we must also treat young people with the respect and consideration they deserve. Otherwise Generation X will continue to drift.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1