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Churches and faith-based organizations have been identified as being key elements in the fight against illegal drugs in Barbados.

And, the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) is leading the charge to educate church leaders about the signs and symptoms of drug use, identifying drugs, and emerging drug trends.

As part of the activities to mark Drug Awareness Month 2020, the NCSA hosted approximately 50 religious leaders for an inaugural Drug Education seminar at its Belleville, St. Michael headquarters, today.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, Manager of the NCSA, Betty Hunte, said: “Churches exist almost ‘cheek by jowl’ with rum-shops in communities, and so, these factors, by their very nature, place faith-based organizations in a unique position to enhance existing prevention approaches and have a positive effect on a community’s response to substance abuse.”

Mrs. Hunte said the use of religion and spirituality in preventing and treating substance abuse was well established across the world, and religion was able to influence substance use and recovery through establishing moral order, providing opportunities to acquire learned competencies, and providing social and organizational ties.

The NCSA Manager pointed out that research showed that persons who did not consider religious beliefs as important or attended religious services were more likely to smoke, binge drink, use an illicit drug other than marijuana and smoke pot than those who believed that religion was important.

“Religion, spirituality, belonging to a church not only encourages abstinence from drug use, but also offers social resources for rebuilding one’s life: a new network of friends; a way of spending one’s free time doing voluntary work; individual psychological attention; value placed in the individual’s potentials, and I hope and strongly encourage, unconditional support for those impacted by drug abuse from the church without judgement,” Mrs. Hunte said.

But, she lamented, that while they were being called upon to intervene in the drug fight, few church leaders over the years have received very little, if any, substance abuse training.

However, she said that today’s workshop represented an effort to increase the capacity of churches and faith-based organizations to implement substance abuse prevention programming.

“It is hoped that this new, or perhaps, reinforced knowledge will equip you to better carry out your duties as you interact with persons who are misusing substances and their families and friends who are negatively impacted,” she said.

The Manager said she hoped those present would be strengthened as stakeholders, as the NCSA aims to prevent, eliminate or control illegal drugs and substance abuse in Barbados.

Drug Awareness Month is being celebrated under the theme: We give you the facts, you make the choice, and runs from January 1 to 31.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbdos.gov.bb

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