The recently presented Barbados National Primary School Survey 2020 will guide Government’s policy on substance abuse, particularly as it relates to children.
This assurance came from Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, as he addressed the release of the findings from a survey conducted by the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) during the months of January and February.
“Scientific and imperative studies such as the one to be presented form the baseline. They inform us so that we as a Government, non-governmental organisations and institutions, can formulate the correct policies and target our resources in a meaningful way based on information and not anecdotal evidence. I am proud to be associated with the survey, [because] this is pioneering work,” he stated.
According to the data presented by Research Assistant at the NCSA and Survey Coordinator, Laura Foster, primary school children as young as seven years are engaging in substance use, with alcohol, energy drinks and inhalants being identified as the top three being used.
In addition, parents, friends and other relatives were identified as the most common sources for all the substances, such as alcohol, energy drinks and marijuana, while tobacco and fanta were supplied by friends and inhalants sourced in the home and by other family members.
“The findings are alarming. The findings suggest and support that this study was absolutely necessary at this point in time. We would have suffered if we had left this study any later,” Mr. Abrahams stated, noting the NCSA was willing to help anyone who required assistance.
The Minister added that such surveys were also important tools for policymaking and programming as they provided an understanding of the drug situation, which would allow policymakers to craft the most appropriate responses for specific populations.
“The national response to the local drug problem requires reliable and up-to-date information,” he stressed.
He also commended the timeliness of the survey, noting that it was Government’s intention to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But, he stressed, the move will also see special repercussions for minors caught with the substance.
“It will be important for us to assess the impact of this legislative change on the patterns of marijuana use and related issues within our society. To do so, we will need baseline measures for comparison, and the findings of this survey can serve as the necessary yard stick for the primary school population,” Mr. Abrahams indicated.
The National Primary School Survey 2020 was the third of its kind to be conducted in Barbados, with the previous ones executed in 2006 and 2009.
Meanwhile, the NCSA has already begun preparations to undertake a National Secondary School Survey early next year, with the findings to be presented during the summer.