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 December 5 , 2003 




Cultural Concern: Armenia’s few cases of glue sniffing are enough to worry officials


A major youth problem in Eastern European countries and Russia, glue sniffing is slowly making its way onto the list of social dangers for young people in Armenia.

Over the past two years, three teenagers have been taken for treatment at the Center of Narcology in Yerevan. One was kept for addiction therapy. Two others were vagrants who had only tried it a few times and use had not become habitual.

In some countries the phenomenon of hallucinating off toxicants is so prevalent it has prompted officials to ban the sell of glue, spray paints and other such materials to minors. Armenia is mercifully far from any such problem, but police have seen enough use lately to be concerned.

According to Republic of Armenia Police Department public relations, no minors have been arrested this year for drug use, and only one last year. But police say they found seven youth who were addicted to sniffing toxicants.

A 15-year old at the Vardashen Special Education Complex for children “with socially dangerous behavior” explained the process:

“You squeeze out glue into cellophane, put it on your head like a mask and breathe,” he says. “The first time when I breathed I blacked out, but later I got used to it.”

The teenager said he learned to sniff glue after he became a resident at the complex. He had left his home in one of the regions and come to Yerevan, where police picked him up for vagrancy and took him to the complex.

But it is not just street children who learn the ease and escape of “getting high”.

One teenager who is now in the eighth form says that he first sniffed glue when he was 10.

“Me and my friend from our yard bought glue. We wanted to cement something,” he says. “Once we heard that you could take enjoyment in breathing it, we squeezed it out into cellophane and breathed. I blacked out. One year ago me and another friend bought ‘Moment’ glue and again we squeezed it out into cellophane and breathed. The first time I didn’t like it. This time I didn’t even feel anything.”

Even at its minor stage of influence among Armenian youth, glue sniffing has evolved enough to become part of their language. Among older teenagers, the “code of the street” is that glue sniffers get no respect. Those under the influence of the fumes, the older ones say, become so affected they don’t even recognize their own family. They tell of one boy who was high and wanted to have sex with his own sister, as didn’t know who she was.

The use of narcotics is illegal in Armenia. It is not illegal, however, to sniff glue or other materials containing toxicants.

“Simply, toxics are not on the official list of narcotic drugs,” explains deputy director of the Republican Center of Narcology, Mkrtich Khachatryan. “In reality like narcotic drugs toxics are psychoactive substances and repeated usage of toxics can result in different diseases and dependence. Like using different drugs, breathing glue causes hallucinatory effects.”

It is a cheap high (a tube of glue costs 150 drams, about 26 cents). And, even as a minor phenomenon, specialists worry of its effects.

Khachatryan is in favor, already, of prohibiting the sell of glue to anyone younger than 18. He says it is better to attack the problem now, while it can be prevented, rather than later when treatment for addiction becomes necessary.

“You cannot treat a teenager in our Center as a drug-addicted patient,” he says. “Glue is only the beginning after which these teenagers will start using other drugs. Their young organisms will weaken and first of all their nervous system will suffer.”


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Cultural Concern: Armenia's few cases of glue sniffing are enough to worry officials

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