Ignacio Calderón – Vice President of FAD
Seven million students and five million families have participated in programmes organised by the Foundation for Help Against Drug Addiction (FAD) in its 30 years of existence. “Something is always achieved, although we make things very difficult in Spain because this is a very festive country”, says Ignacio Calderón, vice president of this organisation. According to the findings of the 2017 Barometer of the Scopio Project conducted by the FAD’s Reina Sofía Centre on Adolescence and Youth, in spite of the current situation and the high rate of unemployment, young people have an optimistic outlook about the future.
– Are our young people happy?
– In fact, they clearly seem to be happy. They lead a life that allows them to say that they are fundamentally happy. They travel, go out, dance, flirt… That does not mean that there is no unemployment, that they are aware that many will have to leave Spain to find jobs, that they may not have decent contracts… They know all that but the conclusion is “we’re OK, we have a good time, we are happy”. They have a quality of life that has developed in our society, with the support of their families, which provides them with a certain level of enjoyment.
– How do they see their future?
– Given the emergence of technological changes, artificial intelligence, and robotics, we will have to wait and see what their lifestyle will be like. My generation was based on profitable knowledge, i.e. you were taught things that generated money. Work allowed you to get married, buy a house, a car… What we are seeing now is that many jobs are being lost to machines and that employment is less stable. Therefore, what is important is that they are capable of being happy, they can learn to do things that fulfil them, because in 15-20 years, whenever, they may be living off that satisfaction, joy, and enjoyment.
– And, what about work? What expectations do they have?
Right now, no-one knows for sure whether the emerging technologies will destroy more employment that they create. What does seem to be the case is that the jobs created will be different. Young people know they have to prepare for the jobs with the greatest potential in the new scenario, and that they are going to have to develop other skills.
– What role will drugs play in this new scenario?
– We must take all these changes into consideration and prepare them for a new scenario in which drugs will continue to be present. There is talk about basic income because there are not enough jobs in the world but people have to live and life expectancy is increasing. They will probably have a lot of free time. Therefore, education in values, together with sport, painting or music, may be important additional elements.
– How can drug use affect the physical and mental training of a teenager?
– It depends a lot on the amount consumed, the frequency, personality, and many other circumstances. What is clear is that it is not advisable. It does not provide any benefit whatsoever. Doctors are particularly sounding the alert about alcohol, which is the drug that is most available to us in our environment. They are warning that drinking alcohol at an early age has an enormous effect on the body, the liver, the spleen, and the brain, which are still developing up to the age of 25.
– What other consequences, “unforeseeable” for them at the moment, can be triggered?
– Consumption hinders your ability to confront it, your strength, your willingness, and your involvement. When you have not drunk you say “if you drink don’t drive”, but if you have drunk you don’t think anything is going to happen, you feel fine. Drugs cancel your self-control and cause you to take risks that you should never take. Not to mention accidents, violence, unplanned pregnancies, and everything that happens or may happen as a result.
– How can drugs affect academic performance?
– Spain has a very high school failure rate, far higher than Europe, and drug use is clearly a factor in this problem. It is clear that drug use does not enhance discipline and your capacity for hard work at all; it removes inhibitions and leads you towards a desire for leisure, fun, and relaxation.
– Drugs can even cut short your career…
– Yes, businesses take this very seriously, as is logical. Because, having a drug addict on the payroll or hiring one implies having to face a complicated situation, much more complicated than if you hire a person who is not a drug addict. We have to put a stop to this because we are laying the foundations for problems now that may have consequences in the future that have not been studied but that will arise in many cases. When they realise, many of them will have become alcoholics, just like people who smoke joints every day will become addicted to them and, therefore, become drug addicts.
– In the past, young people were unaware of the consequences of drug use. Today, however, they have an excess of information. Do you think this helps to raise awareness or does it have the opposite effect?
– The truth is that young people are aware of the risks of drug use but they obviously also know the rewards and benefits they are seeking. The case is that they are seeking the short term. Immediacy is a typical aspect of youth, as is to be expected, because they are at an age in which they are unable to see themselves in the future. Drug use produces certain effects that clearly involve some risks but they are not thinking about what the long-term effects might be.
-Do they use the Internet to get information and answer their questions?
– Young people do things based on their practical experience. Regardless of what we tell them, they have already tried alcohol and smoked a joint or have many friends that have. Therefore, they have their views on that experience. So, when they talk about the reward that drugs provide, they distinguish between the different types because they are familiar with them. You can’t say we haven’t been talking about the hazards of drugs for ages. They have all the information and criteria from experts and organisations, but then you look at drug use rates and you find that alcohol is at the top of the list. The message about tobacco and cancer does seem to have made inroads with them and they are aware that there are substances, such as heroine you shouldn’t mess with. However, although the consumption of non-alcoholic beer has increased, we still had 6,000 alcoholic comas last year and almost half a million episodes of drunkenness a month among minors.
– At what age do they start to consume?
– The average age for alcohol is 13.9 and, of course, that is an average, which means some start at a younger age than that. They start to use other substances when they are 14 and 15 years of age.
– What drives them to flirt with drugs?
– In the preadolescence period a number of issues arise in their personal development because they are starting to grow up, they want to be more important, they start to date… It’s a difficult age because of all the changes, and flirting with drugs becomes part of all these issues. In addition, one of the most influential factors is peer pressure. Young people cannot tolerate being marginalised by their peers.
– Are they aware of the dangers?
– When you meet a person who has a lack of self-esteem or a weak personality that makes them less stable or makes them suffer, consuming alcohol or cannabis enables them to overcome that difficulty, but drugs become something they depend on. As the philosopher, José Antonio Marina said: “drugs are not the problem; they are a bad solution to the problem”.
– What is the solution?
– This lifestyle creates a number of aspects that are difficult to control because of all the above and some say that if drinking in public did not exist we would have to invent it so that young people could socialise. It is not the same to chat on the Internet than in the park. Socialisation is an urgent need for young people who are opening up to life. It is an issue of real significance. Another aspect is that alcohol comes into play with intolerable levels of consumption and drunkenness.
– What do you do at FAD to make them look beyond ‘carpe diem’?
– We always work through mediators, families and educators. A key tool is educating them in values, building a personality based on respect and tolerance. If my generation, when we were 18, used to go out just around the corner to play a game of football, but now they go out all night every weekend when they are 13, we have to prepare them better. When a boy or a girl opens the door to out and party for the first time, we should have provided them with the resources to handle what they are going to encounter; not the other way around.
– Have the crisis and youth unemployment led to an increase in consumption among young people?
– Yes, the crisis has favoured a greater level of consumption because the crisis resulted in the sudden collapse of a lifestyle. Then, expectations disappear and that generates frustration and young people find themselves disoriented and depressed. All that has had an impact on consumption indeed.