There are currently 6.5 million people in Russia who occasionally take drugs and 2 million of those are considered to be drug addicts. 4 million of the those taking drugs are between the ages of 11 and 24 and about 1 million are drug addicts. As a Rosbalt correspondent reports, these figures were announced by Russian Health Minister Vladimir Filippov at a press conference on May 19.
These figures, he said, are the result of a survey carried out by the Centre for Social Research of the Education Ministry in 2002 as part of the national campaign to prevent drug addiction. The survey involved 5 thousand young people between the ages of 11 and 24 and was carried out in 88 different subjects of the Russian Federation excluding Chechnya.
According to the minister, the figures show that every second 11 year-old child knows something about the narcotic effects of cannabis and two thirds of 13-year-old children are aware of the effects. By the age of 16 the figure is close to 80%. He said the number of young people taking drugs rose dramatically between 1997 and 2001. During this period the average age of first-time smokers dropped by 3.5 years as did the average age of those taking drugs for the first time. The average age of those using alcohol for the first time dropped by 2.5 years.
Since 2001 the average age of first-time drug users has not changed. At the present time children begin to smoke at the age of 11.5, begin drinking alcohol at the age of 13 and start taking drugs at the age of 14. Moreover, more than 50% of young people between the ages of 11 and 24 smoke. Boys smoke 13 cigarettes a day on average while girls smoke 9.
Young people have also started drinking alcohol in large numbers. Most young people are introduced to drugs by their friends, at discos and at schools and universities.