The corona virus has been in the world for over a year now. There are still a lot of measures being taken in the Netherlands to fight this virus. There is a curfew, shops and restaurants are closed, as well as the gym and students are not allowed to go the university. It is a well-known fact that a lot of youngsters are suffering from these measures. Feelings of loneliness, depression and boredom are more common than ever. Because of these feelings, youngsters are looking for a way out.
“The measures are taking a lot of time now and we can clearly see the influence on youngsters and the use of cannabis,” says Carmen Spees, who works at the Trimbos Institute and is specialised in the use of drugs and alcohol amongst youngers. The Trimbos Institute is the national Dutch knowledge institute for mental health care, addiction care and social care. In the corona crisis they published multiple articles and researched about the impact of the corona crisis measures and the use of drugs. “After the enter of the measures the use of cannabis has increased with 41.3% and this worries us a lot.” In the age category 20-24 the increasement is the largest. Boredom, feelings of loneliness and stress are the most common reasons youngsters give for their use. “78.4% of the youngsters is using more cannabis because of boredom, 36.3% because of stress and 30.1% because of struggles with mental health (loneliness, depression).”
“The thing that also worries us, is the fact cannabis is physically addictive. We are worried that these people will develop some sort of dependence of the drug. We believe that there is a reasonable risk that people who use more now, will get used to their new form of use. It is an exciting time, I am curious what will happen to the many users that are now created by corona. I hope it is not too bad and that with more room for manoeuvre users will go back to their normal use.”
The Trimbos Institute fears now that the mental health of many young people is under pressure, the risk of psychological complaints with substance use will increase. This could cause anxiety and depression symptoms more quickly. “The thing we see is an increase in psychological complaints in general, such as feelings of depression, anxiety and problems with sleeping. People between the ages of 20 and 35 have the most complaints. They miss the feeling of perspective and opportunities for social contact. We really fear that there will be more psychological complaints with substance use than before.” The fear of the corona crisis turned into a fear of loneliness and mental complaints.
There has been a lot of criticism on the Dutch government for providing not enough perspective to youngsters and for not showing solidarity to them. The Dutch government hasn’t done anything yet with the results from the Trimbos institute. “Things like this don’t go that fast. But it is our intention. At the Trimbos Institute, we are going to try to look at cannabis use in an extra measurement moment. We will also look at what the consequences could be and how we can prepare for this. Parallel to this, is the experiment that is going to take a deeper look to the prevention around cannabis. In any case, the Trimbos Institute considers the results to be so important that we want to devote extra attention to them and, if necessary, request additional projects or funding. We are also trying to create more awareness by doing interviews with big newspapers (Telegraaf, Volkskrant) in the hope to influence youngsters and create awareness about this issue. ”
“I speak for all of my colleagues at Trimbos and actually everyone in Holland that we hope the measures won’t take much longer. The damage amongst youngsters is already there now and we hope it will not be worse. It has been a hard time for all of us in this crisis, but some youngsters really struggled.”
Allan (22) is one of those youngsters that struggles with the measures. He is using a lot more cannabis then before the corona crisis. Like a lot of other youngsters, his age, he struggles with boredom and mental health issues. For him the measures that are undertaken by the Dutch government are taking way to long and for him it results in using more cannabis than ever. He wants to tell his story because he knows that a lot of other youngsters are dealing with this matter.