Responding to changing drug trends
The changing trends in drug use in Barbados have not gone unnoticed by the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA).
And with the battle lines long drawn in the fight against illegal drugs in the country, Government’s lead anti-drug agency has increased its arsenal with perhaps the most powerful weapon to date – the approval of the Barbados Anti-Drug Plan.
While the details of the plan are expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks, the NCSA continues to evolve and adapt its programmes to meet society’s changing demands.
Research and Information Officer at the NCSA, Jonathan Yearwood, said that over the years, drug trends changed from single-drug use – for example, either marijuana or cocaine – to the use of a combination of drugs.
“There was the use of marijuana in various combinations. Marijuana and cocaine for instance, [or] marijuana, cocaine and alcohol,” he explained.
He noted that marijuana and alcohol are still the most commonly used drugs on the island, and there were hardly reports of the use of “harder drugs” like heroine and methadone.
Yearwood pointed out that another discovery made in surveys conducted was that students were more curious about illegal drugs.
“There was also a reduced view of the perception of harm. Students reported that they were less concerned about the harms related to illegal drug use, particularly marijuana,” the Research and Information Officer said.
One of the NCSA’s main concerns is the early age at which students engage in drug use – as young as nine years.
Yearwood suggested that to deal with such issues, illegal drugs have to be seen as more than just a single phenomenon, and the cultural environment and value systems that exist in Barbados had to be examined.
The softening of attitudes toward drug use has increased the need for the NCSA to focus on the psychological and social situations that are unique to each individual.
Programme Officer Paulavette Atkinson said the NCSA was continuously “on the move”, using its research to inform, restructure and update its programmes.
One major achievement in the fight against illegal drugs, Atkinson said, was the approval of the Barbados Anti-Drug Plan, which she noted represented a collaborative effort between the Government and key stakeholders.
“Within the plan, there is a cohesive and integrated approach whereby all stakeholders have an input and a stake in the programmes and the activities that are developed to address the drug problem within key populations and key sectors of the island,” Atkinson revealed.
She added that the NCSA’s programmes were progressive, age appropriate, culturally appropriate and very holistic.
The Programme Officer pointed out that the NCSA also performed community work, held drug intervention programmes in the workplace in both the private and public sectors, and conducted summer camp and other outreach activities.
“Our focus is more structured in recent times. Informed by our research programmes, evidence and best practice, we have been able to tailor our programmes more strategically to meet the needs of the respective populations with whom we work,” she said.