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Unemployment, drugs and attitudes among European youth

A young man using a hoodie and looking at the harbor

The seventh NEGOTIATE working paper, “The effects of the economic crisis on drug consumption of young individuals in Europe – unemployment, drugs and attitudes among European youth”, focuses on understanding whether strong negative labour market conditions have an effect on youth adolescents’ consumption of both legal and illegal drugs.

NEGOTIATE working paper no D4.2 (pdf) by Sara Ayllón Gatnau and Natalia N. Ferreira, University of Girona, Spain

The paper studies changes in patterns of drug consumption and attitudes towards drugs in relation to sky-high (youth) unemployment rates in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

The analysis is based on data from 28 European countries on young people between the ages of 15 and 24. The study finds that consumption of cannabis and `new substances’ is positively related to increasing unemployment rates. For example, an increase of 1% in the regional unemployment rate is associated with an increase of nearly 0.7% of young people declaring to have consumed cannabis at any point in time.

The findings also indicate that higher unemployment rates can be associated with more young people perceiving that access to drugs become more difficult, particularly for ecstasy, cocaine and heroin. However, we do not find any link between changes in the unemployment rate and changes in perceived risk of drug use.

Finally, according to young Europeans, when the economy worsens, anti-drug policies should focus on the reduction of poverty and unemployment, and not on implementing tougher measures against users.