Fewer Italians are dying from drugs but they are experimenting at ever-younger ages, says a government report. Italian kids are smoking joints from the age of 11, and by 15-16 many are regularly abusing marijuana. Part of the problem is that dealers are offering hits at ever more affordable prices: from 5 for heroin (the most popular drug), 5-10 for ecstasy, to 50 for cocaine. Italian youths are also taking on debts of up to 2,000, and are then forced into selling drugs or themselves in order to pay back the debt. Another factor is that todays trips can last just two hours, says the report, enabling youngsters to abuse drugs without being noticed by other family members. And because drugs have become ever more refined, joints can be four to five times stronger than in the past. Syringes are also being used less as addicts choose to smoke rather than inject heroin and cocaine. The one good bit of news: the number of those dying from drugs, 429 in 2003, was the lowest in recent years.
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