Barbados has received a grim wake-up call we dare not ignore.
Methamphetamine – meth, speed, crank, crystal, ice, poor man’s cocaine – whatever you call it, is here, according to the Government’s chief forensic scientist, Cheryl Corbin.
In a sober assessment to journalists, she said: “We have had our first case confirmation of methamphetamines in the island in late 2022 but there are no bones about it, it is here. We’ve confirmed the presence of it here [now] but we don’t know how much we’ve actually missed.
Equally eye-opening at that briefing were revelations from Senior Superintendent of Police Anthony Warner that as recently as March 15, a quantity of meth from Canada was intercepted in San Juan, Puerto Rico en route to Barbados. Barbados would seem to be a transhipment point to move drugs from the source country to the intended country and in the process, some may be left here, he added.
Barbadians know little about meth besides what we have read or seen on television and it is downright frightening. It is a dangerous, highly addictive drug that poisons lives and devastates families and communities while eating its way into the user’s central nervous system.
This white, odourless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder easily dissolves in water or in alcohol, senior registrar at the Psychiatric Hospital Dr Ronald Chase informed the country last Friday.
Meth acts like a stimulant, and even in small doses, could increase wakefulness, accelerate physical activity and suppress appetite, he explained. In addition, the drug is also known to cause cardiovascular problems, including rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat and higher blood pressure.
It can also lead to hyperthermia (elevated body temperature), convulsions and violent behaviour. An overdose, if not treated immediately, is very likely fatal.
In describing this serious development, Home Affairs Minister Wilfred Abrahams pointed out that meth use went beyond the devastating effects on individual health. He noted that widespread meth use has triggered new waves of violent crime, unemployment, child neglect or abuse and other social problems.
His plea to the nation’s youth was rightly urgent.
“ I am asking the young people who are trying out things, to leave this one alone, it will end badly for you. What happens next to all of us,” he said.
No one should treat meth as just the latest drug fad. It’s more addictive than marijuana or cocaine. It destroys the lives of all it touches.
We accept the assurances from Dr Chase, that Barbados is equipped to rehabilitate anyone who found themselves addicted to meth and other illegal drugs. But we believe that an overburdened health care system is far from ready to take on yet another public health enemy.
Prevention by the public and interdiction by law enforcement are our best hope of being spared this scourge.
Education will undoubtedly be the key to combating this problem before it takes root. All of society has to be involved: schools, families, churches, community groups, government and parents. We must act now not react later.
We expect authorities to keep their word and roll out the promised public awareness campaign to educate the public about the drug, how to identify symptoms of use and its effects on mind and body.
Parents need to talk to their children about the devastating consequences of all illegal drugs, including how to say no and stay clear of anyone telling them otherwise.
We all can play our part by choosing to report any suspicious activity to the police. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye. And if we have a family member or friend grappling with addiction, we should urgently seek the appropriate help before it’s too late.
Let’s hope we all act faster than this drug can find its way into our nation’s future.