Drug abuse in Barbados

Well, the elections are completed and by now the euphoria or disappointment should have mellowed to a realisation that we all live here and we all have to buckle down and continue to develop our country.

The Barbados Drug Service in conjunction with partners hosted another public lecture at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Conference centre.

The topic was Drug Abuse and misuse not just in sports – What every Barbadian should know”. Dr Adrian Lorde gave the presentation.

Lorde gave a very educational, but comprehensive overview on the topic.

I sought permission from Dr. Lorde to share with Barbados Today readers some of what was taught and shared at the lecture.

What became apparent is that prescription drug abuse can be considered an issue in Barbados, if only according to the definition offered by Lorde, that of not taking prescription medicine on time or at all.

So that leaves nearly everyone in Barbados guilty as charged. Simply not taking your medicines as prescribed can make you a prescription drug abuser. Not taking medicine as prescribed includes missing doses, sharing your medication, and trying and getting unregulated repeats of that medicine.

Lorde looked at four medicine categories of abuse:

* NARCOTIC AND CONTROLLED DRUGS – Drugs such as pethidine, Codeine fall in this class. Valium or Diazepam and such other products will fall into the controlled class. These are usually given to treat pain or anxiety, sleeplessness or even cough, ADHD or narcolepsy. Funny enough these are the class of drugs that will lead to dependency if abused, that is, taking them although there is no pain, or taking one just in case you may not get sleepy.

* NON-NARCOTIC DRUGS – These are those like your chronic illness medicines, using Lasix to move some more water from your body, constitutes drug abuse. Using insulin to “cut” your body in body building. Using that laxative just in case, or not sticking your nasal inhaler in your nostril at every chance you get.

* HCG AND WEIGHT LOSS PREPARATIONS – HCG is Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. This hormone is produced by the human placenta during pregnancy and is in fact approved only for female infertility and other conditions. Unless you are under treatment with a registered doctor, this is an extremely dangerous product to play with.

The conditions required for treatment insist on medical intervention. Adverts in newspapers are not the way to source this product, as that may be sourced via the Internet and could be counterfeit. Some herbal and drug weight loss products will lead to abuse (who does not want to look good!)

* DOPING IN SPORTS – This may be intentional or accidental. If caught you will be considered a drug cheat regardless. WADA, of which Lorde is the local head, puts the onus on you the athlete to be aware of what you are ingesting. As an athlete or parent of an athlete, it is crucial that you know what is banned or regulated.

To be honest I don’t know all of them, but as a pharmacist I will know where to look and what the strange names mean. So it makes sense to develop a relationship with your medical doctor and your pharmacist, if athletics are practised in your family. A few of the tonics, boosters, energy drinks and prescribed medicines will contain banned substances. The energy drinks especially will sometimes have their ingredients disguised under other names (Benzedrine is called phenomethylamine or acacia rigidula; Octopamine or methylsynephrine is also labelled as bitter orange).

Obviously the message here is, that there is a body of persons governed by ethical constraints who are trained to serve the public. This training is done to protect the public from harm. Doctors, pharmacists and nurses comprise the main part of this body. The wise person will seek their advice or counsel.

It would be remiss to put the blame squarely on the public for prescription and other drug abuse. Studies consistently show that well informed patients hardly ever abuse their prescription medicines. Pharmacist and doctors who take the time to explain what medicine will do are the ones to seek out when choosing a prescriber or pharmacy, there should be no compromise; it is your life you are playing with.

We live in an age where knowledge abounds, but comprehension does not, so going to the herbalist and coming away with those wonder herbs, without proper counselling is just or more dangerous than with prescription drugs. Let your doctor know, and your pharmacist, what you are taking.

Medicine will embrace eventually the complementary approach for treatment, because unfortunately medicine seems to be driven by popular opinion and financial benefit. Therefore let your doctor know, when you want to add herbs or other therapies to your treatment. They won’t bite. Take charge of your treatment options but please be aware of all the pros and cons.

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