Overview of the drug situation in Israel
Since the 1980's drug use in Israel has evolved from a marginal concern to a central problem afflicting the entire society. Israel is a dynamic, modern western society, and as such, often tends to copy behavior patterns common to other western countries. Unfortunately, this includes unwanted behaviours like drug use, a phenomenon that does not exclude any social status, and which has devastating social, economic and cultural consequences, threatening the stability of the entire society.
The phenomenon of drug abuse is well known to today's youth, who are exposed to drugs from as early as elementary school. Not only television shows and movies expose the issue of drugs from all different angles, portraying drug parties in Israel and around the world as fun and social, but drugs have become part of every day life. In Israel, drugs are readily available, and not hard to obtain. Children and youth wanting to buy drugs can do so with ease, with little apprehension. They need not go far, as drugs are often sold near schools and in their neighborhoods. The temptation to use drugs is very strong, particularly when faced with attempts by supporters of drug use and by drug dealers to influence them into using drugs, often by offering drugs for free at first, and gradually raising prices up to the point when teens are left in a hopeless situation, and end up having to "borrow" or steal from their parents, friends or others.
About 300 thousand people in Israel use drugs. Some use it occasionally while others are regular users. Among them, 70 thousand are between the ages of 12-18, representing about 11% of all youth in this age group. There are about 25 thousand addicts living in Israel. These are people whose entire life is devoted to obtaining the next drug dose. They need between one and three doses of drugs a day, usually heroin. They don't work, can't lead a normative family life and pose a burden on the society. About one third are undergoing treatment at one of the facilities in Israel. Success rate for treatment and rehabilitation is not very high, and is estimated at about one third of the cases.
While drug use among normative youth attending schools has been steady at 11% with no increase over the past years, among the 18-30 year olds, there has been a worrisome increase in the use of popular drugs such as hashish, marijuana and ecstasy. This is particularly concerning as among this age group are students, soldiers and working youth.
The illegal drug market rolls huge amounts of drugs and is estimated at 6 billion NIS per year. This includes primarily about 100 tons of marijuana which enters Israel mainly through the Egyptian border.About 3-4 tons of heroin enter through Lebanon and Jordan, about 3 tons of cocaine, a drug which once was perceived as a drug for rich, liberal professionals, is used today by people of all social classes and groups. Over 20 million tablets and portions of ecstasy, LSD and other hallucinogenic substances make their way through sea and air ports.
In Israel there are more than dozens of drug substitutes, some natural and others synthetic, mainly inhalants and volatile substances. The most well known are glue and wipe-out (Tipex), air conditioner and laughing gas.