Anyone who is a regular reader of the court pages in this newspaper, or any other for that matter, cannot escape noticing the troubling extent of the illegal drug problem in this island.
Almost daily, persons are brought before the courts to face prosecution for various related offences, including cultivation, importation, trafficking, possession and consumption. Some go to jail. Some are given fines. Some are ordered to undergo treatment aimed at rehabilitation. Some are made to do community service, especially if they are first-time offenders.
Most offenders are young people, mainly men, some of whom are not yet out of their teens. In some cases, they were persons of great promise with a seemingly bright future ahead. However, after falling into the drug trap, their lives took a downward spiral.
In cases of addiction, their personalities drastically changed. Some began roaming the streets, stealing from friends, family and sometimes others to support their habit.
Fortunately, for these hapless victims, all is not lost. There was some encouraging news coming out of the law courts this week relating to the work of the new Drug Treatment Court, which was set up to help drug offenders to return to a wholesome lifestyle. Its emphasis is on rehabilitation instead of punishment.
At a review session, personal testimonies from the first batch of participants confirmed the initiative was helping to turn their lives around.
From all accounts, seeking to break the shackles of drug addiction to become clean again is a difficult undertaking. It calls for focus, discipline, determination, searching deep within oneself to find the courage and strength to press on towards the objective. Once participants demonstrate a willingness to submit to the discipline of the programme, the Drug Treatment Court seems ready to provide the necessary support and encouragement.
The effectiveness of its interventions is seen in the fact that most of the participants are no longer using drugs. At the review session, where reports were given on the status of each participant, it was revealed that more than 75 per cent of them had tested negative for drug use in September, following on from their last testing in July.
How was this achieved? The lone female in the group said she became drug-free by avoiding the company of persons who do drugs, staying at home and engaging in productive activities. Asked what she would tell others who are trying to stay clean, the young lady replied: “I would tell them to stay focused and stay away from people that smoke.”
One male participant said he kept busy by doing “nuff work”, suggesting that being idle made a person vulnerable to drug use.
Family support also seems to be critical. The young man spoke of a sister who is there for him and who noticed the changes he had made, and how it has motivated him to keep off drugs because he does not want to disappoint her.
“I don’t want to let down my sister because she does be there for me.”
He also revealed that since he had stopped doing drugs, he noticed “I saving more money than before”.
The work of the Drug Treatment Court deserves the full support of the general community. Businesses in particular can pitch in by sponsoring rewards for outstanding participants in the programme. Lucky Horse Shoe restaurant provided meal vouchers which were distributed to the outstanding participants at the review session. By recognizing the achievements of participants in tangible ways, they would be encouraged to apply themselves even more.
Supporting the effort to make Barbados drug-free should be everyone’s business. Drug addiction does not only affect the addicts. It wrecks families and friendships. It causes tremendous personal pain. It consumes considerable public resources that could be used for other things.
The economy loses because it is deprived of the skills of persons during
what should be their most productive years. The country is the ultimate loser when drug abuse becomes widespread.
Against this backdrop, the Drug Treatment Court is a timely and welcome intervention. We laud its success so far and extend the very best wishes as it forges ahead. We will support its work by ensuring that its successes are publicly recognized and highlighted to show there is still hope for tackling the drug problem through rehabilitating one addict at a time.