Manager of the??National Council for Substance Abuse (NCSA), Yolande Forde. (FP)??

Findings have revealed that the average age at which children begin to use drugs is dropping at the primary school level.

According to Manager of the National Council for Substance Abuse (NCSA), Yolande Forde, children from as young as nine are abusing illegal substances, with the drug of choice being marijuana.

While addressing members of the media at a press conference this morning at the Ministry of Home Affairs, as part of ongoing activities to celebrate Drug Awareness Month, Ms. Forde disclosed that this information was contained in a study conducted by the NCSA.

The NCSA head, who gave details about a number of initiatives and programmes being undertaken by the Council, told attendees that currently, there are seven programmes that tackle drug abuse being carried out throughout the island’s primary schools.

She said: "Drug education occurs every day in a primary and secondary school in our nation… Over the past four and a half years these culturally relevant, age appropriate interventions have exposed over 20,000 students to drug education that is designed to their age group.?? Hence, it is incumbent on the NCSA to have a vibrant and effective primary school programme."

While pointing out that just last Thursday, January 3, the NCSA re-launched its Life Education Centre (LEC) which is a mobile classroom dedicated to teaching young people life skills from a young age, the Manager said they had educated approximately 30, 330 students in the LEC about making healthy and positive choices as it related to drugs.

She added that the NCSA was not resting on its laurels as it was also actively going into secondary schools teaching, interacting and mentoring students.

"We have two programmes running in our secondary schools – the Drug Education and Life Skills Programme (D.E.L.S) and DANDRA, a mixture of Dance and Drama, which uses the performing arts as a mechanism to impart discipline, creativity, self-confidence all of which are protective factors as an alternative to drug use," she explained.

With reference to other initiatives being implemented by the Council, Ms. Forde reported that there were a number of major projects still in their gestation phase, and she praised their international partners for staying the course and playing an active role in seeing other projects to fruition.

"There is in fact a hemispheric plan of action for the period 2011 to 2014 and it covers five specific areas: drug demand reduction, supply reduction, institutional strengthening, control measures and legal and administrative framework," she outlined.

The Manager also touched on the subject of the highly anticipated Drug Treatment Court (DTC).?? She told members of the media that Cabinet had agreed in principle to the introduction of such a facility in Barbados and, with the technical assistance of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, the Court should be introduced and implemented sometime this year.

"This is an important part of any drug prevention programme but conjunctionally, it also addresses the crime situation in Barbados because DTC targets a very specialised population… as it is to assist individuals whose drug addiction is driving their criminality. So, we are not just dealing with a person who might use drugs for one reason or the other, we are dealing with persons who are committing particularly and acquisitively, crimes of gain to fuel and fund their drug addiction," she stressed.


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