New government protocol to tackle drugs consumption among minors

SANTIAGO – The government has released a new protocol to stop drug consumption among Chilean minors. It includes a unification of criteria for all education institutes and aims not only to treat existing cases, but also to prevent new ones.

Until now, different educational institutes in Chile have voluntarily implemented action plans to prevent and treat cases of drugs and alcohol use and abuse among minors. Now, the government has promulgated a mandatory protocol to deal with the matter after the police’s Anti Drugs plan has revealed that 117 raids occurred near educational institutions.

The measure demands that all establishments must unify criteria to deal with the problem, meaning the need to follow a similar procedure when tackling cases. Institutions must also implement prevention campaigns to dissuade children and young people from narcotics consumption.

´Drugs consumption among children is everybody’s responsibility´

Jimena Kalawski, the director of the National Service for Drugs Consumption Prevention and Rehabilitation SENDA (Spanish acronym) explained the protocol during an interview, in which she also emphasized the protocol’s relevance in addressing concerns among communities regarding the drugs and alcohol problem.

Kalawski said the measure aims to trigger necessary support and help as soon as a case of drug or alcohol abuse is detected. She also pointed to an obligation of institutions anchored in the community to implement and create relevant strategies. “The protocol must not be approved without the consent of the community and without considering children rights. This policy puts children in the first place of priorities.”

The director also stated that drugs consumption among children is everybody’s responsibility, and not only the parents’. She indicated that an important tool in the battle against drugs is that parents should be able to recognize signals of drugs consumption. They should pay attention to indicators like either lack or excessive appetite, or a new circle of friends.

Another sign would be irritability or its opposite, isolation. Kalawski cautioned, however, that those signs could come from the growing pains experienced during adolescence. But parents must still remain on alert about those behaviors, as they could indicate much deeper problems.

Large consumption among children

In SENDA’s latest report, 62.5% of students that consumed marijuana said they did so before the age of 15. Regarding marihuana consumption, the study revealed that 49.3% of students admitted to have consumed the drug when they were younger than 15. The most alarming component of the investigation is that it was based on children as the subject of study. SENDA hopes to confront this crisis with the new protocol.

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