It’s a warm night in one of the many parks in the centre of Madrid, the thriving capital of a country where drugs pose one of the greatest problems. A classical “Botellón” is taking place, and everyone is having fun. This young social meeting, now a common outing for most young citizens takes its name from its main feature; binge drinking of alcohol.

However, alcohol isn’t the only kind of drug taken at these gatherings of young people. Although tobacco and alcohol are by far the most common drugs taken at all ages, a surprising amount of 30% of people living in Madrid between the ages of 14 and 18 admit to have taken cannabis in the past year. This is surprisingly close to the amount of people of the same age who admit to have smoked tobacco (35%) yet far behind those who have drunk an alcoholic beverage in the past year (70%). Even the consumption of harder drugs is quite surprising among this section of the capitals’ population. The amount of youngsters who admit to have taken cocaine, extasis or amphetamines, among others, is around 4%. However, all these numbers (with the exception of tobacco) are actually below the Spanish average.

So why are the so many young people exposed to these substances? Well, the fact is that less than half (46,2%) of the young population feel that they are perfectly informed about drugs and their risks. This suggests a failure on behalf of the local government to inform the citizens of Madrid, since only 30% of the young population feel that an official institution informed them correctly about drugs.Pacha Flower Power5

But where did the government go wrong with their anti-drug campaigns? Well, recently the Spanish government spent 5 million euros, distributed between all the Spanish provinces as part of their war on drugs, to be spent on anti-drug campaigns. Madrid got the largest amount, with 568,000 euros. Madrid ran many advertising campaigns, many based on irony (including a TV advert using the song “What a wonderful world” or a street advert talking about the “advantages” of drugs)

However, none of these adverts, programmes or campaigns seem to either interest or affect the young population. Many people know the risks that drugs have but they still take them, they ignore the consequences and for this sector of the population drug programmes just won’t work.

In Madrid, like in many other capitals, the scent of cannabis can be smelt in at every concert, every football match and every dicsotheque. It’s taken for granted that drugs are yet another aspect of the city, yet another way to have a fun night out. And, since they can be easily aquired through friends, bars and traders, it makes it easy to use that extra source of fun.

Gran ViaIn the news, there are constantly stories about thousands of kilos of drugs being confiscated from vans or speed boats. But these actions play no real part in the distribution of drugs, since, the next day, twice that amount will be smuggled back in to replace the confiscated substance. In this way, the thriving, cosmopolitan capital that is Madrid will constantly have a stock of the elixir that keeps the youth alive, even though the same elixir may one day sentence their lives.