There is a need for greater focus to be placed on women’s ability to access treatment services for matters related to substance abuse.
Figures which highlight males as the primary persons seeking help for substance abuse may not be a true representation of what is happening on the ground.
This was revealed during the virtual release of findings of the latest 2019 Barbados Drug Information Network (BARDIN) report, last week.
Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, said: “I find that too many of our policies are based on undocumented evidence. People believe a situation exists when the data might actually show something else.”
He added that the 2019 BARDIN report showed that Barbados was still engaged in a battle to combat drug use and abuse among males under 40, with marijuana still being the drug of choice.
However, the Minister noted that it also outlined that the number of females seeking treatment for substance abuse was comparatively lower than the number of males. But, he said, the statistics were not a true representation of those in need of treatment as anecdotal reports from treatment providers suggest that the numbers are far greater.
Mr. Abrahams explained that there were a number of factors, including child care, which reduced a woman’s ability to seek treatment.
“Our society is traditionally a matrifocal one, with women typically being the head of households and the main breadwinners, in addition to being mothers and caregivers. We must therefore ensure that women have the ability and opportunity to access treatment when needed,” Mr. Abrahams emphasised.
He highlighted an ongoing study being conducted by the NCSA entitled: The Barriers to Substance Abuse Treatment in Barbados: Factors Hindering Women’s Use of Treatment Services, and noted that it will be used to help inform policy and programme adjustments to increase the uptake of treatment by females in the country.
Research Assistant at the NCSA, Laura Lee Foster, noted that it was recognised that a range of issues could limit a person’s uptake of treatment. Those, she said, could be at the individual level, to the person not recognising there was a problem, to more structural in nature.
“So, it could be related to programmes, or the lack of wrap around services. Persons in treatment may need help with things like child care, transportation to get to the treatment, job training to get employment. Those wrap around services will make a big difference in whether or not women come into treatment,” Mrs. Foster said.
She added that the study also focused on the social environments of the women to determine factors such as if their partner uses drugs and may therefore prevent them from accessing treatment.
“We have started our data collection and we are looking at the myriad of these different barriers to figure out what is going on. Our hope is that when we can get down to the bottom of what is happening here in Barbados, we can use this data to inform policy and programme changes that will increase the uptake of treatment by women,” she said.
However, at this time, the study is still in the investigative stages and data is still being gathered.