drug problem

drug problem
   The relatively indulgent approach of the Spanish authorities to drug-taking resulted in a massively increased consumption in the 1980s. Although drug trafficking has always been illegal, public consumption was not made so until 1992, while private consumption remains perfectly legal. Evi-dence of drugtaking is to be seen virtually everywhere in the larger cities in the form of addicts in parks and doorways, pushers in streets and bars, and discarded syringes and needles openly visible in public places. One direct result of the spectacular growth in drug-taking via intravenous injection has been the equally spectacular increase in AIDS, with about twothirds of HIV-positive cases being drug addicts. Heroin has been responsible for the deaths of some 700 people a year out of an estimated addicted population of 80,000, i.e. two addicts per thousand inhabitants. This tends to be the drug of marginalized youth and is strongly associated with urban crime and delinquency. However, in the 1990s while the consumption of heroin began to decline, that of cocaine rose. As many as one in ten Spaniards have tried cocaine and over half a million consume it regularly. Crack, the synthetic form of cocaine, has not gained as wide an acceptance among drug takers. The so-called soft drugs, cannabis, LSD, Ecstasy and amphetamines are also in widespread use among young people. The government has conducted lacklustre publicity campaigns warning of the dangers of addiction and, more positively, has set up treatment centres. In the late 1990s there were forty-seven hospitals with drug addiction units, 411 special outpatient departments, 147 methadone treatment clinics, ninety-one group therapy centres, and twenty-one other day centres. Nevertheless, the ease with which drugs can be smuggled into Spain makes control of the problem doubly difficult. The two major points of entry are the southern ports, because of the intense traffic with Morocco, and Galicia in the northwest, whose many coastal inlets makes effective vigilance a virtual impossibility. It is well known that this previously backward northern part of Spain has witnessed an economic boom as a result of money-laundering activities derived from drug profits.
   Further reading
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (chapter 14 gives a clear and reliable account of the drug problem in the context of other social changes).
   C. A. LONGHURST

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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