MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica (IPS)–Drugs like heroin and ecstasy have begun to show up throughout the Caribbean, said narcotics project director Ken-Garfield Douglas.
“Heroin has started emerging in Bermuda, some parts of the Bahamas, and is very much on the increase in Suriname. We’re also seeing the introduction of ecstasy within the region in Dominica, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Jamaica, Guyana,” he added.
According to Mr. Douglas, ganja, or marijuana, usage is also increasing, while small islands like St. Vincent have been showing an increase in cultivation, which appears to be related to increased consumption.
Crack cocaine, he said simply, is “everywhere.”
Mr. Douglas said the results show that 69 to 75 percent of schoolchildren consistently report having used alcohol in the past month.
“We really need a concerted effort across the region aimed at restricting the availability of alcohol and tobacco to young people, really restricting it,” he said.
Laws prohibiting the use of such products by children and teenagers are meaningless if they are not enforced, he added.
Detailed information on drug use in individual countries is expected to be released by the end of the year, with regional data available in the middle of next year.
The survey is being carried out by the Drug Abuse Epidemiological and Surveillance System Project at the Caribbean Epidemiological Center. It includes the 15 CARIFORUM countries (Caribbean Community or CARICOM, plus the Dominican Republic), as well as the English-speaking dependent territories in the region.
The data are expected to help shape national and regional drug abuse prevention policies. Since the surveillance work has started, regional experts have also formed a Caribbean drug information network, intended to maintain the flow of information on drug use.
CARICOM’s council on human and social development has now approved a regional strategy, which is expected to focus on areas like training and strengthening institutions, Mr. Douglas said.
It also suggested “placing greater emphasis on utilizing a series of multi-cultural initiatives involving culturally relevant messages and interventions of faith-based organizations, the private sector, schools and the media.”
Jamaica’s National Council on Drug Abuse is also reporting relatively high use of alcohol and tobacco by young people, according to a survey carried out last year and just released here.
It found that 42 percent of young people ages 18 to 24 used alcohol within the last month, along with 19 percent in the 12-to-17 age group, said the chairman of the Council, Charles Thesiger.
In addition, there is a “phenomenal increase” in tobacco use as young people move from the 12-to-17 age group to the 18-to-24 category, said Mr. Thesiger.
“In terms of the 12-to-17 group, you see that those who have ‘ever used’ tobacco would be 6.4 percent, and by the time you get to the 18-to-24 (age group) it’s 20 percent, which is a threefold increase,” he said.
The Jamaican survey also found that “males were at least three times as likely as females to have problems of abuse or dependence on alcohol or drugs. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 years were most likely and teenagers aged 12 to 17 years least likely to have drug or alcohol problems.”