Successfully tackling the scourge of drugs in the region requires a rounded and well-coordinated multi-faceted approach, which will seek to understand what it is that fosters the demand among young people in the first place.
This is the view of Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment, Adrian Forde, who said that while regional governmental and non-governmental organisations will be in the forefront of the battle, there does exist an obvious need for a supporting structure.
“To this end, a hand must be extended to family organisations, churches, schools and tertiary training institutions, as well as community groups, to join forces to develop measures to aid in lessening the demand for drugs in the medium to long-term,” he said.
Forde examined the issue as he delivered the keynote address at this morning’s opening of the 1st Caribbean Youth Forum on Drug Use Prevention, at the Hilton Barbados Hotel. The Forum was organised by the Organisation of American States (OAS), the United States Embassy in Barbados and Government.
Forde told the participants from 13 OAS English-speaking Caribbean states that the onerous task would be theirs to forge an appreciation of the root causes that underpin and sustain the growth of the drug scourge within the region, through devising meaningful and sustainable strategies for reducing the demand of drugs among those who call the region home.
“Before we can adequately reach conclusions on reducing the demand for drugs among the youth in our society, it is vital that we understand the nature of these drugs.
“For more meaningful analysis, we can categorise these substances under the labels of legal drugs, for example, alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals, and illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
“We also should understand the effects of all these drugs and how they can impact the mental and physical health of our young people, and by extension, the social and economic development of our societies,” he said.
The Minister who is a trained pharmacist added that all drugs whether considered to be legal or otherwise could be subject to abuse. He said while certain substances might be prescribed by medical practitioners, use beyond the prescribed dosage could be deleterious to one’s wellbeing.
“To counteract the abuse of these potentially toxic substances therefore, it is perhaps necessary to attack the root of the problem.
“Traditionally, efforts to counter the use of drugs have tended to focus on the introduction of punitive measures. As a result offenders have been summarily hauled before the law courts and subjected to the payment of fines, imprisonment or, in some cases, both,” he said.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Barbados, Linda Taglialatela, said the forum was needed since, unfortunately, it was a fact that criminal organisations were transforming and selling drugs throughout the Caribbean and destroying young lives in particular.
“But, we do have the power to get them back. This is why we are here this week. As young leaders of the most technologically connected generation, you have bold fresh ideas and the vision to innovate anti-drug sector efforts in your countries. I challenge each of you to find the place to create a positive impact, increase awareness and help protect loved ones . . . ,” Taglialatela said.
Among the participants in today’s session were representatives from Barbados, Suriname, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, St Lucia, Dominica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, among others. (AH)