The National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) has said it is eagerly anticipating the conduct of a National Primary School Drug survey to be held early next year, as it intensifies efforts to pinpoint the causes of youth violence and its likely connection to drug use.
NCSA Manager Betty Hunte was among a large contingent from the NCSA marching through the streets of Bridgetown with students during Wednesday’s peace rally.
Pointing to recent research that suggests children are using substances much younger than before, she underscored the need for age-appropriate interventions.
Hunte declared: “We can no longer hide under a rug anymore.
“Substance abuse affects everybody and it does not have a face any longer and so we really have to tailor our interventions.
“We have to put in the work and do what is necessary because it can no longer be a ‘one-size fits all’ approach.
“What we are planning to do at the National Council on Substance Abuse is to do a primary school survey in January.
“So we will go in and we will not only ask about substance abuse, but we will look into other dynamics like bullying, family violence and stuff like that and then we will really be able to put our finger on some of the root causes of substance abuse and some of the issues we are finding in schools.”
According to Hunte, the time had come for authorities to “dig deeper” in the pursuit of a safer society. She noted a clear correlation between youth violence and drug use had already been established.
She said: “There is no causation necessarily to say if you use substances it will cause this or the violence is because of that but there’s a clear correlation and from research that was published recently, we see that persons who find themselves in problems with the criminal justice system, a large percentage have indicated that they use substances or were impacted by substances somewhere along the line.”
Days after Minister of Elder Affairs and People Empowerment Cynthia Forde expressed concern about increased violence among young women, Hunte said that since 2016 there has been a steady increase in the number of girls turning to illegal drugs.
This, Hunte said had prompted the NCSA to “infuse” gender discussions into their programming catering specifically to the needs of young women.
“Girls need a different response than boys do,” she said.
The NCSA Manager described yesterday’s march led by Frederick Smith Secondary School students as a laudable initiative which the council embraced.
She said: “We indicated our interest and we were welcomed so we thought we would come primarily to give our support to the school children.
“School violence for us doesn’t only have one cause. I think we have to do more to dig deeper to find out exactly what is causing it.
“The truth of the matter is this is not something that has sprung up overnight.
“If we are honest, the signs were there. I think we need to look at our social interventions, what we do, how we can meet people where they are at, because times have changed.
“So we have to find a way to go to them and tailor our interventions to meet their needs.”