The changing trends in drug use in Barbados have not gone unnoticed by the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA).
And, with the battle lines long drawn in the fight against illegal drugs in the country, Government’s lead agency has increased its arsenal with perhaps the most powerful weapon to date – the approval of the Barbados Anti-Drug Plan.
While the details of the plan are expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks, the NCSA continues to evolve and adapt its programmes to meet society’s changing demands.
Research and Information Officer at the NCSA, Jonathan Yearwood, said over the years, drug trends had changed from single drug use, where persons used either marijuana or cocaine, to them combining the drugs. “There was the use of marijuana in various combinations. Marijuana and cocaine for instance, [or] marijuana, cocaine and alcohol,” he explained.
However, he noted that marijuana and alcohol were still the most commonly used drugs on the island, while “harder drugs” like heroine and methadone were hardly reported.
Mr. Yearwood pointed out that another trend detected in surveys conducted was more school children being prepared to use marijuana for the first time, with the figure jumping from 17.7 per cent in a 2006 survey, to 22 per cent in a survey conducted in 2013.
“This tendency to use marijuana was also linked to the attitudes towards drug use… Students were more curious about the use of illegal drugs. There was also a reduced view of the perception of harm. Students reported that they were less concerned about the harms related to illegal drug use, particularly marijuana,” the Research and Information Officer stated.
As a result, one of the NCSA’s main concerns is the early age at which students engage in drug use, some as early as nine years. Mr. Yearwood suggested that to deal with such issues, there was a need to move beyond seeing the drugs as a single phenomenon, and examine the cultural environment and value systems which presently exist in Barbados.
He noted that there was a softening of attitudes towards drug use, thereby increasing the need for the NCSA to focus more on the psychological and social situations that are unique to each individual.
However, progressing from its humble beginnings in 1995 in a 40-foot container at Trents, St. James, to more luxurious quarters today at the corner of 1st Avenue Belleville and Pine Road, St. Michael, the NCSA is poised to attack the emerging trends.
Programme Officer, Paulavette Atkinson, said, the NCSA was continuously “on the move”, using its research to inform, restructure and update its programmes, and was cognisant of other trends that were evolving and how best the agency could tailor programmes to meet the needs of citizens.
One major achievement in the fight against illegal drugs, she said, was the approval of the new Barbados Anti-Drug plan, which she noted represented a collaborative effort between the Government of Barbados and key stakeholders.
“…Within the plan, there is a cohesive and integrated approach whereby all stakeholders have an input and a stake in the programmes and the activities that are developed to address the drug problem within key populations and key sectors of the island,” Mrs. Atkinson revealed.
She added that the NCSA’s programmes were progressive, age appropriate, culturally appropriate and very holistic, with some starting from as early as five years and proceeding through to secondary school.
The Programme Officer pointed out that the NCSA also did community work; had drug intervention programmes in the workplace in both the private and public sectors; and conducted summer camp and other outreach activities.
“Our focus is more structured in recent times. Informed by our research programmes, evidence and best practice, we have been able to tailor our programmes more strategically to meet the needs of the respective populations with whom we work,” she said.