An increasing number of young Barbadians are graduating from marijuana to hardcore drugs such as cocaine and heroin, revealed Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite.
Speaking at the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) 21st anniversary awards ceremony at Accra Beach Resort last weekend, Brathwaite said a change in abuse patterns had become apparent shortly after last year’s opening of a Drug Court for the rehabilitation of offenders.
He said it had become even more obvious with the latest group of juveniles who appeared before the court.
“What is noticeable about this new cadre of individuals is that, whereas with the first set of individuals we were discussing abuse of marijuana, now we’re seeing people coming to us with [issues of] abuse of cocaine, heroin, etc,” Brathwaite told NCSA staff, volunteers, and other supporters.
“So the reality is, in this little country of ours, we do have more of a problem than people believe.”
The Attorney General said that amid this emerging trend, some Barbadians continued to call for the legalization of marijuana.
However, he said while he was not in favour of turning young people into criminals over the use of small quantities of cannabis, all the implications of decriminalization had to be explored before a decision could be taken in this regard.
“I’m not for the criminalization of our young people for small quantities of marijuana. I am not in favour of that at all, but I’m certainly not going to go in the direction of encouraging the Government of Barbados to legalize marijuana, or any drug, without us understanding the implications for us as a country, for our young people in particular,” he said.
“Let us discuss the health challenges . . . because what these persons don’t see is what I see.”
Brathwaite reported that administrators at the Psychiatric Hospital and rehabilitation facilities such as Verdun House and the Centre for Counselling and Addiction Support Alternatives had been reporting on the number of young men, in particular, who turned up at their doors to fight substance abuse. Those youngsters, he said, included those who “went to secondary schools, and decent secondary schools, but still dabbled in illegal substances”.
The Attorney General further warned that Barbados could soon see large-scale importation of synthetic drugs currently seen in North America and other parts of the developed world.
He also called for more training for NCSA staff and greater collaboration with international partner agencies.
“They will come to our shores . . . given the new substances, and given what we’re seeing in the international community in terms of abuse new synthetic substances,” he cautioned.
“We need to be on the cutting edge of response to what is coming to us in the future. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and assume that it will not happen in Barbados. We have to assume that what we’re seeing in North America, in terms of the challenges with their young people, that we are going to have the same challenges.”
Meanwhile, NCSA Chairman Dale Callender warned that the strategy for dealing with drug use must change in the face of new challenges.
“Old problems have been transformed, and new ones have arisen. We must constantly employ new tools, new systems, and new responses,” Callender said. “We must refocus our work and our programme to tackle these new challenges.”