Life on the Western Front of Israel Stressful Living Conditions and Adolescent Cannabis Use
Negative implications of exposure to violence on health and well-being of youth have been observed and studied worldwide and especially in Israel. Youth in the Western Negev of the country have been exposed to missile and terror attacks for more than a decade. However, implications of such prolonged exposure have not been fully studied. This study is aimed at the implications of exposure to such conditions on youth in the town of Ofakim in the Negev. A focus group was conducted with youth following the Israeli Defense Forces’ “Protective Edge” response to continued attacks from Gaza (July–August 2014). Focus group participants reported high stress levels during the operation that resulted in an increase of substance use including alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and synthetic cannabis-like substances (e.g., “Nice Guy,” “Spice,” and “Black Mamba”) and changes in eating and sleeping behavior. The Ofakim resilience center served as a shelter for participants providing for them with physical and emotional comfort. Staying in the “shelter” used for protection against missile attack promoted youth resilience. Exposure to violence has a significant impact on the health and well-being of young people and others. A secure receptive facility that provides trust and support can serve as an important moderator of the negative impact of emergency conditions. From the results reported in this article, further research is needed to fully assess the long-term effects of stress conditions including the use of cannabis and synthetic cannabis-like substances among youth and other residents in the Western Negev.
KeywordsResilience Missile attack Terrorism Youth Substance use Risk-taking behaviors
The authors would like to express their appreciation to the following people: Dr. James Halpern, director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH), for sharing his knowledge and experience; Prof. Patricia Findley, Rutgers School of Social Work, for her comprehensive training in focus group research methods; and Ms. Yahaloma Zchut, director of the Ofakim resilience center, and her staff for their cooperation.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Informed consent was received for the information collected and reported in this paper, and all human and animal rights were protected.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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