Drugs – A lifestyle of choice for Roma and non-Roma youth?

By • on July 6, 2010

Drugs, alcohol and gambling are major problems that have already destroyed many families in the Czech Republic. Their stories are so tragic. This is an issue that also touches Romani families. It reached the point when a mother informs a police that her son uses and possesses drugs. I already wrote about it in a reportage called Time bomb for Roma.

The mother was hoping that her son would get rid of his addiction in prison. This kind of a decision is rare in Romani communities as relationships among all family members are emotionally very deep. For this reason Czech families living with drug addicts were shocked when the government partially decriminalized but not legalized drugs. Possession of even a small amount of drugs is since January this year still against the law but only as a minor offence.

In short, this did not help families to fight a battle against drug addiction but, on the contrary, the new law pushed them into a dead end. The media have analyzed whether this is a solution to a problem or only a justification for those who have chosen drugs as a lifestyle. I was shocked when I heard some leading Czech political figures say that they actually tried this or that drug and that in general it is not terrible at all. But when I look around, I see how alarming the situation is! I am not sure whether I want and would be able to bring up my children in the Czech Republic. I may try to lead my son or daughter in the right direction but he or she will once return from school as a different person. Because their friends will take drugs as an acceptable and common pleasure, so why should one resist?

The government warns that drugs are still illegal. But because the possession of drugs under set limits is not a criminal offence any longer, but rather a minor offence, the majority of Roma who I talked to interpret it as a permission.

There is a civic association whose leader is a local Romani woman in Mlada Boleslav. She has been trying to solve the devastating drug addiction of the Romani youth for several years. She creates various activities with them trying to discover their hidden talents and abilities. She simply tries to offer these young people a chance for their self-fulfillment. Unfortunately, there is not much success but saving at least one life means a lot to her. She does not talk much but understands the issue well as both her sons are drug addicts. Change of the law made her upset and sad. According to her, almost every Romani family has a child who takes drugs and once they start there is only a little chance that they will stop. She knows children whose drug addiction is so bad that they take drugs directly in front of their parents. But sadly, also older Roma have started to like drugs.

The situation is much worse in the Czech Republic than in Slovakia. Here you suddenly enter the world of which drugs are an integral part. Wherever you look, you see a weirdly walking person with a dimmed look as if floating somewhere in clouds. It suddenly gives you goose bumps because what you see is a lost human life. Those people are sons and daughters of loving parents. Their children became zombies. Ghosts you are afraid of , with no future. But what you also clearly see are desperate parents and hopeless families.

I have a friend whose brother is a drug addict who went so far that he would rob his own mother just to be able to purchase dugs. So, the mother now is storing her jewelry at her daughter’s house. When you hear such stories you have to ask whether the new law makes any sense. Of course, there are fewer inmates in Czech prisons and therefore state expenses are lower.. But while prisons might be emptier, won’t cemeteries be fuller? Or drug treatment centers? Actually, if those could be filled, I’d see it as a step forward. The Czech youth needs a remedy. But whether the step which Czech politicians made was a step to a remedy is hard to tell.

Here are above mentioned possession limits:

Marijuana 15 grams
Hashish 5 grams
Heroin 1.5 grams
Methamphetamine 2 grams
Cocaine 1 gram
Ecstasy 4 tablets
Amphetamine 2 grams
LSD 5 tablets
Hallucinogenic mushrooms 40 pieces

Growing of cannabis is also illegal but people can have up to five plants at home growing in pots without committing a criminal offence.