Above: Lars Bror Kristiansen (left), Mikkel Ihle Tande, Simen Tomren Grip, Kevin Lee Hanes-Hansen, Sander Folke-Olsen, Maja Arnesen and Phillip André Charles. Photo: Tommy Strømmen
The Association for Safer Drug Policies’ youth branch Safer Youth was launched in September this year. The new organisation aims at redefining our approach to prevention, by turning the focus towards topics such as mental health and social exclusion in relation to drug use. Their intention is to create an alternative voice among youth organizations that rejects what they consider to be old fashioned and moralizing views.
The new organisation maintains that the current youth organisations who focus on drug policy, have an excessive focus on drug use, and that their outdated and moralising messages are not taken seriously by vulnerable adolescents.
- We believe that an emphasis on prohibition merely targets symptoms rather than underlying causes. Interventions need to start sooner and be more effective if they are to overcome the challenges we face today. Safer Youth is advocating for a practical approach to the problems associated with teenagers and drugs, says the newly elected leader Simen Tomren Grip. In his opinion, young people with drug problems need to be met with inclusion and solidarity rather than moralisation and ostracization.
The 21-year-old Simen, originally from Molde, works at a kindergarten in Oslo. He has already been politically active for some time and, along with others from Safer Youth, has a background in political youth wings. He thinks that the key to preventing problematic drug use, along with other problems experienced by today’s youth, is to increase the focus on early interventions and offer more assistance to struggling parents. In his view, the policies in place today contribute to stigmatisation and social exclusion, which makes reaching out to troubled teenagers all the more challenging. They also move the focus away from the real problems.
- Kids who try cannabis today get pressured into signing humiliating drug contracts where they must deliver weekly urine samples for months in order to escape fines and criminal records. Successfully completing the arrangement is seen as a success, even if we don’t know whether the individual in question replaces the cannabis with alcohol or some other drug. We also don’t know whether they start using cannabis again later, or if they develop symptoms of anxiety or depression. Instead of focusing on the drug use itself, adults should be asking why the kids are using it in the first place, Simen explains.
The leader for the Association for Safer Drug Policies, Ina Roll Sprinnagr, says they are very proud of their new youth organisation.
- There is an unmistakable need for Safer Youth with regards to drug policies. Established youth organisations do a good job in demonstrating that one can have a good time without resorting to drugs, but their moralising message can also have an ostracising effect. Safer Youth wants to prevent the negative consequences of drug use by ensuring that kids and adolescents are raised in a safe environment, receive help with their psychological problems, and are met with care rather than punishment. She postulates that it would be a positive development for this perspective to be presented by Norway during the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Wien next year.