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Cannabis, cocaine or ecstasy: how to help our teenagers protect themselves from drugs

Léa smoked her first joint in the summer of 2020, while on vacation in Brittany with her grandmother. She was then 15 years old. “I had already been offered it at parties and I had always said no. There, I wanted to try, so, with my childhood friend, we went to buy some on the village square. It was quiet, we looked at the stars laughing. » It was with a friend, a few months later, that she moved up a gear. Anaelle, whose mother is herself addicted to cannabis, already consumes a lot and the two girls start smoking together several times a week.

→ MAINTENANCE. Parents facing their children’s addiction: “understanding is not accepting”

“As I rarely bought it, I didn’t realize how much I used and the place that cannabis took in my life. Gradually, I started to smoke alone. Even after a bad trip (paranoia, fainting), I started again because, overall, I had the impression that smoking did me good: it helped me escape reality, especially the pressure of a high school where I felt bad “she recalls.

After a depressive episode and the resurgence of a traumatic memory, a sexual abuse that she had buried in her memory, Léa succeeded, with the support of her family, in stopping the addiction mechanism. “Now my high is intellectual”jokes the final year student, passionate about philosophy.

Teenagers weakened by the pandemic

Insidious slip testimonies like that of Léa, child psychiatrist Olivier Phan (1) heard dozens of them at the Pierre-Nicole “young consumer consultation” in Paris. “The pandemic has left teenagers vulnerable and many have turned to substances to try to find a cure for their discomfort,” he observes.

→ INVESTIGATION. “There is reason to be discouraged”: between health crisis and school pressure, the malaise of teenagers

Most use alcohol or cannabis, which is more accessible than cocaine or ecstasy. Even if the addictologist refuses to distinguish supposedly “soft” or “hard” drugs, he observes, between the first products mentioned and the second, a “a course that most young people hesitate to cross, except the most fragile and the least well surrounded”.

Since the 2000s, cannabis has spread to all age groups, territories and social backgrounds. Nearly one in ten secondary school students have already experienced it in ninth grade and around 40% of young people aged 15-16 consider that it is easy to obtain it. “Some people don’t even know thatis prohibited because it is common to be offered it around a school establishment and because, moreover, cannabis in the form of grass has the image ofa natural, even “organic” product, compared to increasingly stigmatized tobacco”underlines Ivana Obradovic, deputy director of the French Observatory of Drugs and Addictive Tendencies (OFDT) and author of the book Cannabis (Ed. La Découverte).

This weed vogue is “doubled by the effect of normalization following the legalization in certain countries and theappellation of “therapeutic cannabis”, which suggests that the product does notis not so harmful”.

The signals that should alert

Not all teenagers who “try” become regular users, she reassures, and most stick to occasional and festive uses, but early experimentation (before age 14) increases the likelihood of use. problem or addiction. Parents are not always aware of this scourge. Some even close their eyes, in memory of their own teenage “smoking”, without realizing that current products are much more concentrated in THC (the psychoactive substance) and harmful for developing brains up to the age of 25. .

→ READ. Launch of a citizen consultation on “recreational” cannabis

Red eyes, shifty gaze, empty fridge, money disappearing… Many signs can alert families, but it’s the overall change in attitude that often signals the shift towards addiction: the teenager is never at home again, his school results drop…

“It is not worth panicking at the first alerts but a discussion is essential, without an inquisitive attitude”advises Olivier Phan who insists on the importance of exemplarity: difficult to teach a lesson when you yourself have addictive behavior linked to tobacco or alcohol.

Help him refuse without losing face

Similarly, sticking to a discourse on the dangers of the drug or its prohibited nature is not enough. “Talking about the long-term risks is not effective, because a young person rarely projects himself into the future, and scaring people by agitating the police or legal threat is sometimes counterproductive when you know the taste of adolescents for the forbidden. »says Alexis Grandjean, youth manager at the Addiction Federation, which helps develop prevention programs in schools and associations, with young people and parents.

In addition to combating preconceived ideas about drugs (everyone smokes, cannabis is not addictive, etc.), the workshops, games and simulations strive to develop psychosocial skills from early childhood. “If you are better at managing stress, building relationships, asserting your opinions and knowing how to say no, you will be better equipped to resist the demands and pressure of peers, powerful in adolescence” points out Nicolas Baujard of Apleat-Acep, a specialized association in the Center region.

→ CHRONICLE. Adolescence, group age

For psychologist Jean-Pierre Couteron, spokesperson for the Addiction Federation, it is essential to talk about drugs with your child long before they come to him: “When he was young, he was taught that certain products, such as alcohol or tobacco, were prohibited because they posed a risk to his health. As puberty approaches, he is told that certain substances have the ability to change his relationship to the world and to himself. They make her feel stronger, less stressed or shy, and this shortcut is a trap because it can make her want to start over. »

We must not only show the adolescent other ways to obtain the same result but also help him to prevent the proposal, to prepare “diplomatic lies” (taking medication, parental supervision, important meeting the next day morning…) to refuse without losing face!

→ TESTIMONIALS. Drugs test family relationships


Young people and drugs

9.1% of ninth graders have already experimented with cannabis in 2021. 1% have settled into regular consumption and 1.4% are in a situation of dependence. Boys are more often concerned than girls (11.7%, against 6.4% for a first experience, and 1.9% against 0.2% for regular use).

Young people from privileged backgrounds more extensively experiment with cannabis, but the establishment of frequent, even problematic, consumption is more widespread in modest backgrounds. It is also more common among young people in apprenticeship (14%) and among those who have left the school system (21%) than among high school students (6%).

5.5% of ninth graders say they have already used nitrous oxide (laughing gas). 6.1% of young people under 16 say they have already used at least one illicit drug other than cannabis. Most often it is cocaine or MDMA (ecstasy).

Source: OFDT


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