Specially trained individuals fanned out across Barbados today, asking students from 18 secondary schools about illegal drug, alcohol and tobacco use.
The Secondary School Drug Prevalence Survey is part of a National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) and Organisation of American States (OAS) programme to get information on whether the students have ever used drugs, are first time users, tried it one or more times; and if they are users, where they obtain supplies and consume it.
The survey will also be concerned with consumption and abuse of legal drugs, including tobacco and alcohol. The research is being made possible through a $30,000 grant from OAS, and will run for an estimated five months, questioning students in Forms Two, Four, Five and Six in government and private schools.
“The purpose of this survey is to determine the incidence and prevalence of substance abuse among our secondary school population,” explained NCSA Manager, Yolande Forde recently as she signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission of the OAS and received the sponsorship cheque.
The survey involves 11 other Caribbean countries and, according to Forde, it will give the OAS Commission, “a holistic and comparative view of what is happening with respect to substance abuse in the secondary school population in the region”.
She said that while part of a regional fact-finding exercise, the Barbados component holds pointers for drug prevention activities here.
“At the same time it’s going to be of critical importance to us as the drug-demand reduction agency in Barbados, because we don’t want to be developing programmes and planning programmes and policies on gut feeling or intuition, we prefer to have valid and reliable data to inform our programming and our policy.”
Forde did not name the 18 public and private schools to be targeted in this exercise and said they were randomly selected by OAS officials in Washington.
OAS Barbados Representative, Francis McBarnette, said the aim is to ensure that drug fighting policies of member countries are evidence-based so they can be implemented. “We’re not doing things on a whim,” he said, “the Idea is to strengthen the capacity of countries to not only collect information, but to analyse it, disseminate it, and to feed it into the larger sub-regional and regional picture.”