What do chemical and pharmaceutical substances, both legal and illicit, ‘do’ for youth? This is the question posed by the Chemical Youth project, funded by the European Research Council, which aims to understand the chemical lives of young people in France, the Netherlands, Indonesia and the Philippines.
In this public lecture, project leader Professor Anita Hardon from the University of Amsterdam explained that young people use all sorts of chemicals for all sorts of reasons. They began by asking young people about all the different kinds of chemicals they use – from personal care products to illicit drugs – and asked junior researchers to identify projects of interest to them.
They are finding that chemical use makes sense for young people in all sorts of ways as they go about their everyday lives. For example young people may be studying at the same time as working in late nights in a bar so they use caffeine and energy drinks to get them through. Others might be taking hormones during gender transitioning or picking and choosing vitamin supplements while aspiring to a super-healthy lifestyle. They have also discovered that through, for example information sharing and looking out for each other, they already have some quite effective and sophisticated bottom-up harm reduction strategies.