- Hans Weber
- December 4, 2023
Rising Concern: Substance Addiction Among Children Under 14 on the Increase in the Czech Republic
While addiction in children under fourteen may often be associated with an uncontrollable desire for digital devices and screen time, experts are warning of a concerning trend in recent years—a growing incidence of substance addiction among children. This issue, once more prevalent among their parents’ generation, now includes alcohol, medications, and drugs.
Experts highlight an increasing number of dependent children under the age of 14. These young individuals face difficulties in seeking help because most addiction clinics specialize in adolescents aged fifteen and above.
The rising trend in addiction among this age group is evident. “In practice, we have observed increased addictive behavior among children and adolescents. The combination of alcohol, drugs, and medications is increasingly being abused by children under fourteen. Unfortunately, addiction services for this age group are entirely lacking,” warns Martina Kajzarová, head of the Social and Legal Protection department of Children in Třinec, at a parliamentary seminar.
Soňa Petrášková, director of the Safety Line, confirms that the number of interventions necessitating professional help for children in distress is on the rise. Many of these interventions relate to toxicology cases where the child is under the influence of life-threatening substances. “Last year, there were 122 interventions, and we have already surpassed this number in September this year. We contact toxicology most often,” says Petrášková.
According to Jiří Pilař, deputy director of the Key Educational Care Center in Prague, children in this age group are increasingly experimenting with prohibited substances, which can lead to addiction. “We admit children aged fifteen to the Care Center but also provide outpatient treatment for younger children. We encounter twelve-year-olds and even ten-year-olds. There is more of it. When we compare data from twelve years ago and last year, we have seen a fifty percent increase,” says Pilař.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this issue, but it’s not solely attributable to the pandemic. Children are increasingly struggling with challenging life situations, stress, and a desire to escape from problems, according to experts. However, healthcare faces hurdles. Child psychiatrists and psychologists are in short supply, and psychiatric clinics rarely accept child patients.
While some clinics provide assistance to dependent children, the concept of child and adolescent care in addiction is under review and expected to be submitted to the government for legislative establishment of facilities catering to dependent children. Experts assert that child services cannot grow independently, necessitating state intervention.
This concerning trend underscores the importance of addressing substance addiction among children and adolescents, with a focus on early intervention, support, and resources to help them overcome addiction and lead healthier lives.
Article by Prague Forum