Drugs affect young people in every part of the world. Young people may use drugs, be involved in the cultivation or production of drugs, or be used as couriers. There are many factors at the personal, micro (family, schools and peers) and macro (socioeconomic and physical environment) levels, the interplay of which may render young people more vulnerable to substance use.World Drug Report 2018 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.18.XI.9)
The 2018 World Drug Report by the United Nations suggests that the extent of drug use among young people, in particular past-year and past-month prevalence, which are indicators of recent and regular use, remains much higher than that among older people.
However, in countries such as Kenya, older people report a higher use of established substances such as khat and cannabis.
The report also adds that among the general population, khat and cannabis remain the two most commonly used substances, with the highest lifetime and past-year use among those aged 25-35.
On the other hand, the lifetime use of cocaine, heroin and prescription drugs is nearly three times higher among people aged 18-24 than among those aged 36 years and older.
With the exception of tobacco and alcohol, cannabis is considered the most commonly used drug among young people. Epidemiological research, which is mainly concentrated in high-income countries, suggests that the perceived easy availability of cannabis, coupled with perceptions of a low risk of harm, makes cannabis, after tobacco and alcohol, the most common substance used. Its use is typically initiated in late adolescence and peaks in young adulthood.World Drug Report 2018 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.18.XI.9)
Three things are certain:
- Medical research shows that those who use cannabis before the age of 16 face the risk of acute harm and increased susceptibility to developing drug use disorders and mental health disorders, including personality disorders, anxiety and depression.
- Approximately 9 per cent of all people who experiment with cannabis develop cannabis use disorders, whereas 1 in 6 among those who initiate its use as adolescents develop cannabis use disorders.
- Between one quarter and one half of those who smoke cannabis daily develop cannabis use disorders.