I F Kononov - Drug addiction among high school students in luhansk trends and prevalence - страница 1

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UDC [316.624.3:615.2:615.015.6] -057.874 (477.61) Kononov I. F.

DRUG ADDICTION AMONG HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS IN LUHANSK: TRENDS AND PREVALENCE

Psychoactive drugs have been known throughout human history. Probably, this is the price we pay for our intelligence, as it brings the awareness of our mortality. Such awareness becomes more dramatic in the context of modern society due to the individualization of life. Erich Fromm once wrote, "Our own era simply denies death and with it one of the fundamental aspects of life. Instead of allowing the awareness of death and suffering to become one of the strongest incentives for life, the basis for human solidarity, and the experience without which joy and enthusiasm lack the intensity and depth, the individual is forced to repress it" [1, p. 205]. Thus, the human conscious has created a problem no less serious than challenges of the subconscious.

Diving into the subconscious by means of psychotropic substances since ancient times has been an escape sought by people, who lived in different times and in different civilizations. Stanislav Grof analyses the use of psychotropic substances in different cultures, from shamanism to the medieval "Ars Moriendi". Examining the well known in the ancient world Eleusinian Mysteries, he, for example, suggests that, "The stories about the feelings that were experienced by those ordained contain frequent allusions to spectacular visions of supernatural brightness. They are often described as the opposition of light and shade, fear and bliss. <...> Among the most striking visions, there were meetings with the deities, especially with the goddess Persephone. <...> An important detail in this mystery is the fact that, before the culmination ceremony of sanctification, the hierophants gave them a special sacred drink, called kykeon. Thus, it is possible that kykeon had very strong psychotropic properties. Only psychedelic drink could cause such a powerful experience in thousands of people simultaneously" [2, p. 63 - 64]. S. Grof calls these states

holotropic, whereas experiences they cause are believed to be transpersonal. They can be experienced not only due to psychotropic substances, but because of holotropic breathwork or unusual states of body. He believes that, "Although transpersonal experience is gained during deep self-study, it cannot be viewed as a mental personal phenomenon proper. On the one hand, it reveals itself in the same continuum as the biographical and retrospective, as well as perinatal experience, the access to which is secured through introspection. On the other hand, it, obviously, reaches out directly, without involvement of sensorium, towards those sources of information that are far beyond human abilities. A strange shift occurs somewhere on the prenatal level of the psyche, and everything that was a deep introspective examination or self-analysis moves to a new level and opens the channel of experiences that belong to different aspects of the Universe and that can be perceived only by extrasensory means. These experiences are often compared to the Mobius strip, because it is hard to say where the inner and outside sides of the strip are" [2, p. 185].

The aforementioned suggests that, in this case, psychoactive substances were used in the context of interaction with the sacred, numen[1] side. Thus, being culturally assimilated and belonging exclusively to this facet of human life, in no way were psychoactive substances part of everyday life. Carl Gustav Jung believed that the protective wall around the numen began to decay with the rationalization of social life. He stated: "Not until the Enlightenment was it was discovered that gods did not exist in reality, but were projections. Thus, it was the end of gods. However, the corresponding mental function persisted; moreover, it moved to the sphere of the unconscious, and this is how people became poisoned by their own libido, which was used earlier in the cult of idols. Depreciation and repression of such important function, as the religious one, was of great significance for the individual. The fact is that the backflow of libido extremely increases the subconscious, and it begins to exercise a powerful impact on the conscious with its archaic collective meaning. The

period of the Enlightenment, as we know, ended with the horrors of the French Revolution" [4, p. 140].

The modern man, left to confront his psyche alone, appears to be, however, not ready for such meeting. This was among the causes of what E. Durkheim called anomie. Part of the society tried to find the solution in the individual escape from the reality. For this reason, in Western Europe there was a poetization of drug intoxication among artists. In those times, narcotism was not considered to be a medical or social problem. Historians state that, in the early 19th Century, 20 tons of opium were imported legally in the UK annually. In India, the opium poppy was planted by the East India Company legally, and, furthermore, the Company's experts sophisticated the technology of opium purification. It was sold in the pharmacies across Europe as a solution and powder. Doctors turned many patients into addicts without realizing it. The East India Company began to use opium as a commodity in trade with China in order to raise money and buy tea. The epidemic of opium smoking had a devastating effect on the Chinese society. China lost the so-called "Opium Wars" in 1840 - 1842 and 1856 - 1860, facing the threat of loosing its independence. A huge number of people was affected and died prematurely [5].

Nowadays, there is no satisfactory theory that could explain narcotism. The ideas in this article also should be considered only as a general approach to understanding this social phenomenon. It would be erroneous to blame macro-social factors alone, as these factors only frame its emergence. Its dynamics, however, depends on more subtle mechanisms because, in the same social situation, some people become drug addicts or alcoholics, whereas others do not.

I do not mean to say that social system is of no importance. Sociologists have been able to prove that, everywhere in the world, narcotism growth is especially active during crises, wars, and revolutions [6]. Vulnerable layers of the population were distinguished in this regard. Researchers tried to find out what type of personality is more prone to addiction. The results of these studies were paradoxical. According to V. Burlaka, there are all personality types among alcoholics [7, p. 11]. But there is a statistical dependence: people, characterized with gregariousness,

impulsivity, and rebelliousness are more disposed to drug addiction. V. Burlaka writes, "Common feature for all these people is the pursuit of stimulation and excitement. Some people, however, deal with it in a constructive way, others opt for a destructive path. These features are not pathological by themselves. Instead, they are highly valued by the society when they are productively directed". Other scientists were able to prove that people with low self-esteem have an increased risk of narcotisation. V. Burlaka describes it in the following way, "Drug abuse can be a way of escape from self-hatred, which arises from failures in this particular period of life" [7, p. 12]. Thus, a person prone to addictive behaviour looks like a rebel who, being the heart and soul of the party, suffers from low self-esteem. These features are rather contradictory.

All modern societies admit that narcotism is a serious social and medical problem. UNO adopted the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) [8], as well as the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971) [9]. The International Narcotics Control Board has been founded [10].

In the Soviet Union, the entire might of the state repressions was to fight against narcotism; it, however, existed in a latent form [11]. Perestroika's chaotic democratization and market transformation provoked the outbreak of narcotism. According to the research by V. Sobolev and O. Serdyuk, Ukraine had 2506 registered drug addicts in 1968 compared to 54555 in 1997 [12]. The scientists wrote that, "... This outbreak gained momentum in 1991, when the country re-oriented itself in earnest toward a new economic and social system, which took place amidst general economic, political, legal, and moral crisis. The crisis, as is well-known, caused a mass deterioration of living standards, devaluation and contributed to the destruction of the previous value system and other negative processes in the society" [12].

Although drug epidemic threatens the national security of Ukraine, it has not been consistently studied in the last several years. There is no state nationwide monitoring system of the situation. Research projects have been supported by their proponents alone. In different years, narcotism in Ukraine was studied by O. Balakireva   and   O. Yaremenko   (Kyiv),   V. Podshivalkina,   T. Kamenska,

M. Lewinsky, and N. Miroshnychenko (Odessa), V. Sobolev, I. Rushchenko, Y. Svezhentseva, O. Serdyuk, S. Reshetnyak, and S. Yakovlev (Kharkiv). There has been conducted some monitoring sociological research into narcotism in Kiev (led by O. Balakireva) and Kharkiv (led by I. Rushchenko).

The project of scholars from Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs "Youth and Drugs", launched 1995, is of particular importance. Eight surveys of high and vocational schools, as well as university students in Kharkiv have been conducted to date [13, p. 477]. At the initial stage, Professor Vasily Sobolev was the head of this research project; today it is led by Professor Igor Rushchenko. The latter came to the conclusion that there are two types of narcotism epidemic. The first type is a social one (drugs as a fashionable trend among the youth), the second type being a medical epidemic. In his opinion, sociologists study the first kind of epidemic, which is declining today, while the medical epidemic is continuing. This findings were presented during the conference "Youth and Crime" in Luhansk (Luhansk State University of Internal Affairs named after E.O. Didorenko, October, 27 -28, 2011). Summarizing, the scholar stated, "... drug abuse among young people has reduced in recent years; however, if episodic drug use is decreasing, regular use is increasing" [13, p. 480]. Analyzing the empirical data available to us, we will compare it with the data obtained by Kharkiv sociologists, whose first monographic study dates back to

2000 [14].

It is necessary to make some terminological remarks. Scientists from Kharkiv use the term "narcotism" as a synonym for mass addictive behaviour. Oleksiy Serdyuk writes, "In our opinion, the social narcotism is characterized by: 1) wide-scale addictive behaviour, 2) formation of special social groups of drug users, 3) prevalence of addictive subculture, 4) emergence of apparently distinct social relations, and 5) transformation of social structure under the influence of narcotism" [7, p. 31]. The term "narcotic" is of ancient Greek origin (уаркоткос; - benumbing substance). This term is believed to be introduced into medical lexicon by Hippocrates. Originally, it defined opiates and opioids that caused stupor or insensitivity to pain. With time, the scope of this concept expanded, which

emasculated its meaning. Today, this word is often used to define illegal psychoactive substances. Thus, the definition of a substance as a narcotic includes social, medical, and legal sides. Taking into account the ambiguity of the term and possible uselessness of terminological debate, the term "narcotism" will be used in this article both in an unqualified, as Kharkiv sociologists do, and qualified sense (defining a certain class of addictive substances). The former is necessary because of unequal degree of cultural assimilation of certain addictive substances. This approach may seem to be doubtful. One might argue that alcohol has destroyed more human lives than cannabis. We have no doubt in harmfulness of both substances, and this is not the point here.

Thereby, let us mention the problem of crime. From the legal point of view, only those actions are considered criminal that violate certain provisions of law. In this sense, there are many paradoxes, because an action that is destructive to society but does not break the law cannot be prosecuted. According to the sociological interpretation that should be the basis for understanding legal phenomena, E. Durkheim defined crime as an action that violates the fundamental common sense. In his opinion, it is "... an action that offends certain collective feelings, which are endowed with special power and definiteness" [15, p. 464]. While developing these classic ideas, I. Rushchenko associated crime with the disorder in the institutional system of society. These disorders are related to the essential institutions of society. The scientist states, "Every society in a specific historical period has its own institutional foundation, according to which control institutions, criminal law, law-enforcement agencies are formed" [16, p. 174].

These ideas can be applied to the analysis of narcotism. Drinking alcohol and smoking are assimilated by our culture, which operates schemes protecting society from devastating consequences of using these substances. However, there is no guarantee that they work without failures. At the same time, the problem should not be oversimplified. Cultural schemes aimed to alcohol use depend on different circumstances. Among these, for example, are ALDH enzymes. Specialists of Molecular Genetics state that "... the presence in the genotype of allele c.143A and

c.1510A allele of ALDH2 gene can be regarded as a defensive factor for alcohol dependence" [17]. Thus, for example, patterns of our culture can be detrimental to other nations.

It is quite a different matter if we are talking about psychoactive substances that are not assimilated by our culture. Their introduction to our everyday life devastates its order. There is a break in the reproduction of social institutions. From the medical point of view, some of these substances may be especially dangerous. They can destroy the personality and body quickly and irrevocably. Thus, the use of such substances is nothing but a slow suicide. For this reason, culture rejects these substances.

The aforementioned provides only a cursory view of this very complicated matter. Moreover, it has been studied poorly. Realizing the danger of such superficial approach, we touched it only to explain why we are going to use terms "narcotism", "alcoholism" and "smoking" in a qualified sense.

Below are the results of the project "Everyday Life of Luhansk Student -2011"[2]. It was held from October 10, 2011 through November 10, 2011. The survey involved 800 students of Luhansk secondary schools. The size of the sample was determined by the criteria of homogeneity and analytical requirements. During the survey, a random sampling was used. Sampling error for R = 0,954 is 3,5%, without considering design effect. Multilevel mixed sampling strategy was employed. The basis of the sampling was a list of Luhansk schools.

Narcotism prevalence among high school students of Luhansk was studied by means of questionnaires, which allowed to get a certain stereoscopic view of the problem. The general distribution of answers to the direct question about the prevalence of drug use among schoolchildren is given in Table 1.

Distribution of answers to the question "How common is drug use among students of your school?" (percentage of all respondents).

Answer options

All

respon dents

8th

grade

9th

grade

10th grade

11th grade

1.     This is a mass phenomenon

3,3

3,9%

1,9%

1,6%

5,5%

2.

There are some, but not many, students who take drugs regularly, and there is the majority that has never used drugs

4,5

6,7%

1,4%

7,1%

3,2%

3.

Some students take drugs; it is, however, the minority, and the majority has nothing to do with them

13,5

11,2%

10,1%

14,1%

18,3%

4.

Students of our school do not take drugs

36,6

38,8%

42,0%

39,1%

28,9%

5.     It is hard to say

41,4

39,3%

44,4% 38,0%

44,0%

6.     No answer

0,7

0,1

0,2

0,1

0,1

Total

100

100

100

100

100

These data suggest that drugs are present in the everyday life of high school students. Only a minority of respondents is confident that students of their school do not take drugs. 21.3% of respondents admitted that some students of their school take drugs to some extent. As the question was sensitive, attention should be paid to the number of students who considered this question hard to answer. It is possible that there are some among them who concealed their knowledge of the real situation.

The table shows a certain correlation between students' opinions about the prevalence of drug use and their grade: the more senior the students, the stronger the assumption that some of their classmates take drugs (Spearman coefficient is 0,127 and Pearson coefficient is 0,129). It should be noted that responses of 8- and 11-graders are quite close.

The answers do not seem to be gender-specific. Significant differences were registered only for the positions "it is a mass phenomenon" (girls - 1,2%, boys -

5,5%) and "students of our school do not take drugs" (37,2% and 34,7% respectively). The difference in the position "There are some, but not many, students who take drugs regularly, and there is the majority that has never used drugs" (girls -4,2%; boys - 5,25%) is within statistical error. The position "Some students take drugs; it is, however, the minority, and the majority has nothing to do with them" has the same values regardless of gender (13,8%). Gender characteristics of the distribution of responses confirm the disparity that was established earlier: males are more likely to abtake drugs than females [11, p. 78]. Therefore, men's and women's experiences of contact with these substances and drug addicts should be different. However, this difference is insignificant in the case of school populations.

To obtain more specific information, respondents were offered questions about drug abuse in their member groups. Such approach was expected to (1) reveal if respondents were using their own experience when answering previous questions and (2) help understand the mechanisms of narcotism spread. We have already mentioned that, according to some experts, epidemiological model is the one that best describes the spread of narcotism. Besides, according to Kharkiv sociologists, the decision to take drugs is influenced greatly by "... the submissive motive (being influenced by the group). This position is the absolute leader among the responses - 60,5%" [7, p. 47]. Below are the data on the drug use among three close friends (Table 2).

Table 2

Distribution of answers the question "Imagine three close friends of yours. In your opinion, how many of them have ever taken drugs?" (percentage of all respondents).

Answer options

All

respon­dents

8th

grade

9th

grade

10th grade

11th

grade

1.

One

9,3

7,0%

5,9%

12,5%

12,3%

2.

Two

6,1

5,3%

6,3%

3,3%

9,5%

3.

Three

4,1

2,3%

2,0%

6,5%

5,9%

4.

No one

78,9

83,6%

85,8%

77,7%

72,3%

5.

It is hard to say

1,6

1,6

0,0

0,0

0,0

 

Total

100

100

100

100

100

The data featured in this table confirm the data in the previous table. 19,5% of respondents have close friends who take drugs. Tendencies registered before are at play here as well. %2 is 25,169, this fact confirming the connection between the variables "friends who take drugs" and the grade respondents belong to. In this case, though, gender differences are much more significant: 6,8% of boys and 2,4% girls have three friends who are drug addicts, 7,8% of boys and 5,2% of girls have two friends who take drugs, and, respectively, 10,6% and 9,0% of respondents have one drug addict among friends. 74,85% of boys and 83,5% of girls maintain that there are no drug users among their friends.

Furthermore, respondents were asked a direct question "What kind of drug is easy to buy in our city?". To process these data, a data table of Kharkiv sociologists was used [13, p. 479 - 480]. However, our data cannot be directly compared with data received by Kharkiv scholars, because the question was related specifically to the drug use. The comparison can only reveal certain tendencies. It should be mentioned that 30,8% of students named specific types of drugs; 43,1% answered that they were not aware of it; 2,4% wrote that they were not interested in it. However, 23,8% of our respondents did not answer this question at all. Ignoring the question could be interpreted in different ways. It is possible that some students chose to conceal their knowledge in this sphere.

Distribution of responses among grades fails to substantiate any steady tendency. Thus, among respondents who demonstrated their awareness, there are 29,8% of 8-graders, 41,4% of 9-graders, 46,2% of 10-graders, and 40,3% of graduates. The index % 2 shows no stable connection between these variables.

There is a significant connection between the knowledge in this sphere and gender of respondents. Thus, 49,8% of boys knew the types of drugs that are easy to buy in our city, 46,3% of boys did not know, and 3,9% of boys were not interested in it. The indexes of girls' answers were 32,8%, 64,4%, and 2,8%, correspondingly.

Below is the table generalizing these results (Table 3).

Distribution of answers to the question "What kind of drugs is easy to buy in our city?"

Narcotic

Number of Mentions

% of number of mentions

1.

Preparations of the Cannabis plant:

marijuana, kief, hashish, hash oil, resin....

206

43,4

2.

Smoking blends / mixes (JWH)

45

9,4

 

Cocaine, crack

34

7,1

4.

LSD (LSD, blotters)

19

4,0

5.

Butyrate

17

3,6

6.

Amphetamine, methamphetamine

14

2,9

2.

Heroin

12

2,5

3.

Tramadol hydrochloride, spasmolex

12

2,5

4.

Mushrooms, psychedelic plants

9

1,9

5.

Pervitin

8

1,7

6.

Ecstasy (MDMA)

7

1,5

7.

Dimedrol

5

1,1

8.

Medical   opioids:   morphine, trimeperidine, omnopon, methadone, fentanyl...

4

0,8

9.

Opium poppy: raw opium, straw...

2

0,4

10.

Other drugs

82

17,2

11.

Total

476

100

Unlike Kharkiv youth, Luhansk students do not mention such drugs as "Effect" and "Koldakt", ephedrine, tranquilizers, barbiturates, various narcotic inhalants, psilocybin, mescaline, phencyclidine, and chifir'. Among drugs that were not found in the Kharkiv list, Luhansk respondents mentioned benzedrine (24 times) and trigan-D (6 times).

We were interested in ways of drug distribution among students. There was a direct question about it. We were not interested if they bought drugs themselves and where. We used impersonal sentences for our questionnaire. 1082 responses were received. The results are introduced in the table below (Table 4).

Distribution of answers to the question "What is the first place to buy drugs in our city?" (Number of responses was unlimited). (percentage of all respondents).

Answer options

All

respon­dents

8th

grade

9th

grade

10th grade

11th grade

1.

in special kiosks

3,6

4,8%

2,9%

3,5%

3,8%

2.

in nightclubs

14,3

13,9%

14,3%

14,2%

14,7%

3.

from  pushers   who sell from home

18,6

13,5%

15,0%

21,2%

23,4%

4.

from classmates who are in this business

1,7

2,2%

0,7%

1,2%

2,6%

5.     from street traders

7,0

6,5%

5,0%

7,7%

8,7%

6.     on the Internet

8,0

6,5%

9,3%

10,0% 6,4%

7. other

12,6

10,9%   10,0%   10,0% 6,4%

8.     It is hard to say

34,2

41,7%  42,9%  32,3% 34,0%

If the real situation is the same, the drugs are quite available to students. There is every indication that students who mentioned the main ways to buy drugs were close to reality. Drug pushers "work" at home, in nightclubs, on the street. Drugs can be bought online. A small number of respondents said that drugs were distributed by their classmates. Though we received a small number of responses, it became obvious that drug trafficking had penetrated into schools.

One of the hypotheses of our research was that students distinguished between relatively harmless drugs (light) and deadly ones (heavy). However, according to Table 5, this hypothesis was not fully proved.

Distribution of answers to the question "In your opinion, is it possible to distinguish dangerous and harmless drugs?" (percentage of all respondents).

Answer options

All

respon­dents (n=787)

8th

grade (n=177)

9th

grade (n=206)

10th

grade

(n=18)

11th

grade

(n=219)

1.

All drugs are dangerous; the only difference is the degree

71,0

67,8%

72,8%

75,1%

68,5%

2.

Light drugs are not dangerous, and heavy ones are deadly

10,0

6,2%

9,7%

10,3%

13,2%

3.

Drugs themselves are not harmful, but the ways of their administration are dangerous (risk of AIDS contamination)

5,1

9,6%

4,4%

3,2%

3,7%

4.

It is hard to say

13,9

16,4%

13,1%

11,4%

14,6%

These data are the evidence that most students are apprehensive about drugs. It also proves that cultural rejection of narcotism is an effective measure for adolescents. However, about 15% of respondents believe that the use of these substances can be harmless, which is quite worrisome.

Drug addiction, which is rejected culturally, occurs in the form of alcohol and tobacco addiction, which are assimilated by our culture. The connection between these types of narcotism (in a broad sense) has not been defined yet. S. Moravytsky, who studied narcotism in Fergana in 1885, found out that local residents replaced alcohol with drugs [19]. If so, drinking alcohol can be considered an obstacle to drug consumption. There are certain reasons to make this conclusion. It is true that some preparations of the cannabis plant were traditionally spread in some Muslim countries [20]. However, nowadays, these countries have laws in place to severely punish drug use (including death penalty). Research by Kharkiv sociologists, quite on the contrary, demonstrated a positive correlation between alcohol consumption and drug

abuse. Oleksiy Serdyuk states that "The frequency of alcohol consumption among addicted to drugs Kharkiv adolescents is much higher than among those who have never taken drugs" [7, p. 53]. Perhaps, these conclusions should not be considered as mutually exclusive. In traditional cultures, one can talk about the substitution of one way to reach the altered state of consciousness with another. Today, alcohol and drug addictions are caused by common social reasons, which explains correlation between them. That is why, probably, these addictions should be studied together. In our research, the same scheme that was used to study the prevalence of drug use was then employed to research into the alcohol consumption among high school students. The results of the questionnaire about prevalence of alcohol consumption are given in the table below (Table 6).

Table 6

Distribution of answers to the question "How common is alcohol consumption among students of your school?" (percentage of all respondents).

Answer options

All

respon­dents (n=784)

8th

grade (n=177)

9th

grade (n=204)

10th

grade

(n=185)

11th

grade

(n=218)

1.

This is a mass phenomenon

22,8%

24,3%

23,5%

19,5%

23,9%

2.

There are some, but not many, students who drink regularly, and there is the majority that has never had an alcoholic drink

25,5%

26,6%

24,5%

20,0%

30,3%

3.

Some students drink; it is, however, the minority, and the majority has nothing to do with alcohol

28,3%

26,6%

28,9%

30,8%

27,1%

4.

Students of our school do not drink

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I F Kononov - Drug addiction among high school students in luhansk trends and prevalence