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Japan fights rising drug use with mobile message


June 13, 1997
Web posted at: 4:28 p.m. EDT (1628 GMT)

SAITAMA, Japan (CNN) -- Drug use among Japanese teen-agers has jumped to record levels, prompting officials to seek measures to curb the problem. And a van is leading the drive against drugs.

The van tours the nation's various schools, touting a drug-free message that helps inform teen-agers about the dangers of drugs with graphic photographs, interactive computers and other material.

"I don't think I'll do drugs after this," one girl said, after seeing the display.

The government-affiliated school project began five years ago, but only in the past year has drug use among teens become a serious problem.

Japanese police say the number of high school students arrested for amphetamine abuse nationwide hit an all-time high in 1996, more than doubling in one year to 214. Experts say teens have graduated from sniffing paint thinners and are now turning to such black-market drugs as amphetamines.


Explanations for the spread of drug abuse vary. Some say it's due to pressures from school; others say it's part of being young and curious.

And though drug use by minors in Japan is still low by other countries' standards, some parents here say it's a growing problem they don't know how to deal with, but one they must face.

"It's hard to teach my kids to reject drugs because our generation hasn't experienced what they're going through," one parent said.


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