'Bored' teens driven to drink and drugs
TEENAGERS living in rural parts of Suffolk are driven to drink and drugs through boredom and lack of opportunity, a report published today claims.A major study, funded by the Department of Health, reported "substantial" underage drinking levels in the countryside and said it was "easy and acceptable" for children to be served alcohol in village pubs.
By Danielle Nuttall
TEENAGERS living in rural parts of Suffolk are driven to drink and drugs through boredom and lack of opportunity, a report published today claims.
A major study, funded by the Department of Health, reported "substantial" underage drinking levels in the countryside and said it was "easy and acceptable" for children to be served alcohol in village pubs.
It also claimed young people did not see alcohol or taking drugs as a problem and were more concerned with being unemployed or becoming single parents.
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The 14-month research was carried out by drug prevention charity Mentor UK in Suffolk, Carmarthenshire, Wales, Cornwall and North Yorkshire, and involved a series of interviews with groups of young people.
The findings are published in a report which claims young people have little to do in rural areas, leaving them feeling bored.
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Lack of transport and internet facilities meant it was difficult for them to use services and activities that could prevent them from substance misuse and most teenagers saw cannabis smoking as normal and non-problematic, it added.
Questionnaires carried out in Suffolk showed most youngsters thought the numbers of young people taking drugs and alcohol was rising and all those interviewed personally came into contact with people who took drugs, mainly heroin, cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy.
Most felt that where they lived contributed to why young people took drugs, particularly in rural areas.
Reacting to the report last night Cary Godfrey, Suffolk Drug Action Team co-ordinator, said: "The Suffolk Drug Action Team welcomed this report, as it highlights that not only do cities have problems in relation to substance misuse but so do rural areas.
"Suffolk does not have a huge drug problem compared to some other counties but drugs and alcohol are more available now and in some areas young people turn to these substances out of boredom and feelings of isolation.
"On the positive side we do have local initiatives which divert young people away from drugs into sport.
"These initiatives have proved very effective. Suffolk's crime and disorder reduction partnership has also allocated money for youth shelters and skateboard parks."
He added: "Rural counties need more resources to target vulnerable young people. To achieve this it cannot be a single agency response, it needs the community and all local services to work in partnership."
The report said many youngsters living in rural areas did not come into contact with drug educational resources often available to those in urban areas and added there were few specific drug prevention projects.
It urged the Government to recognise there are drug and alcohol problems in rural communities and to prioritise initiatives to prevent substance misuse in these areas.
Wil Gibson, chief executive of rural campaigners Suffolk Acre, welcomed the report's findings, saying problems with alcohol and drug misuse in rural areas had been a concern for some time.
"Just because you live in a rural area it doesn't mean everything is nice. One of the useful things of the report is it dispels the myth that somehow rural areas suffer less problems.
"We need now ways of addressing some of the issues that are raised.
"Young people who are in difficulty sometimes do their networking at school and once out of school they don't have access to the friendship network because people live in different villages.
"The policies towards rural areas are geared in an urban context and then reapplied to rural areas and they don't always fit."
Eric Carlin, chief executive of Mentor UK, said: "They told us many good things - for example, several described the beauty of their environment - but we also heard a lot about feeling bored and isolated, with alcohol often being used to make it more bearable.
"Illegal drugs were also becoming more readily available, despite the denial of this reality by local communities. Not only did they tell us about their problems and frustrations, they also made suggestions about how things could be improved for them and others like them.
"I hope the young people whom we got to know a little will see that, by telling their stories, they are helping to shape the future. Government and planners are reading this report and listening to what they said. That's very powerful. This isn't a depressing story – it's a hopeful one."