There has been considerable concern about the perceived number of young people around the world who are using illicit psychoactive substances. The widespread concern about the use and abuse of illicit drugs is reflected by its high status on health, educational and political agendas in many countries.
In 2010 alone, around 210 million people, youth inclusive, were predicted to take illicit substances at least once, causing drug-trafficking to be one of the largest criminal offence that brings in the most significant social impact to the communities. If strategies to reduce the use of drugs and associated harms amongst the younger population are to be developed, particularly within the health education arena, it is vital that we improve our understanding of the roles that both licit and illicit substances play in the lives of young people.
Illicit drug trade is not only confined to the supply and demand but starts from cultivation offering young people new opportunities to participate. Research has shown that drug cultivators are a very diverse group: although cultivation is the most prevalent money-generating crime for gang members, girls and otherwise conventional youth are also involved in high numbers. There is therefore a need to design policies that concern not just the prevention of drug use among youth, but also youth involvement in the supply of drugs.
At World Assembly of Youth (WAY) we prefer to articulate that youth are the central actors and vehicle for change. Any program to curb drug abuse and its trafficking must bear in mind that change starts with the involvement and participation of youth in the formulation and implementation of activities designed to wean and dislodge them from drug use and trafficking. The youth and their peer groups' perspectives of their involvement in drug sale and trafficking are crucial inputs to the design of program strategies and techniques for any anti-drug programs. Research with a focus on young people has sought to identify motives for illicit drug use.
Support of community officials and institutions is a key factor in the success and replication of any activity to curb drug use and its trade. Therefore, we assert that Government policies and programs must also recognize the central roles of the community officials and institutions. These policies should also support gender sensitive drug issues.
The policies and programs developed should also recognize the need for protection and support for youth drug users especially in relation to their health. In light of this year's theme, Make Health Your 'New High' In Life, Not Drugs, we feel that it is necessary to raise the awareness and advocate for the importance of having a healthy body and mind for the young people.
Together we can make it happen and have a world free from the abuse of drugs, and individuals free of drug dependence who can contribute to our common future. It takes a man's faith to believe that it can happen and action to bring it to pass so let us all have common conviction for the good of our own health, youth and communities.
Get high on Life, not on drugs!