The National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) stays concerned about Barbadian children being exposed to drugs at an early age.
Deputy Manager Troy Wickham said with findings within the 2020 National Primary School Survey showing children as young as eight years old admitting to substance use, the NCSA has been stepping up its education campaign, even though it is working with limited resources.
“I can say the fundamental drug continues to be alcohol, followed closely by what we call energy drinks. 4 per cent, to be exact, admitted to using marijuana of their life. And the fundamental source is at home with family and siblings.
“It is a concern for us on the National Council on Substance Abuse because, one, socialisation, the house is a spot where individuals spend most of their time, together with the faculties and their peers,” Wickham told the media at Project Safeguarding Our Future Today (SOFT) Residential Camp on the Eastern Caribbean Camp, Ruby, St Philip.
Against the background of the worrying statistics, he said the NCSA has been ramping up its drug education programme in schools, using technology to maintain students interested and engaged.
Wickham explained that while the NCSA only has about 19 staff members, technology allows the Council to expand its reach.
“We’re also seeking to conduct further research within the secondary schools. Unfortunately, at this cut-off date, we cannot try this nevertheless it is on the cards. It’s essential for us to have those facts to tell our drug education going forward,” he said.
Project SOFT, which targets students who’re transitioning from primary to secondary school, focuses on topics equivalent to anti-bullying, anger management and stress management. The campers also take part in sessions that teach them life skills in addition to dance, drama, art and singing.
Wickham explained that Project SOFT, now in its twentieth 12 months, is designed to take a holistic approach to substance abuse education.
“Research has shown us that this assists us well and this offers the youngsters a substitute for drug use,” he said.
“We focus mainly on the at-risk population. We get children from the Welfare Department, we get children from the Juvenile Liaison Scheme, we get children from the juvenile justice system, and it can be crucial for us to really engage these children at this young age as they’re individuals who’re maturing and are, as we’d say, prone to using substances.”
Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs Wilfred Abrahams, who visited the camp on Friday, encouraged the youngsters to decide on a path that may cause them to a successful life. He advised them to decide on their friends properly, say no to drugs, and to generally make the correct selections.
“I’m proud to have the opportunity to have Project SOFT again under our ministry. I need to commend the National Council on Substance Abuse for the work that they keep doing in schools and that they keep doing on this camp because we are literally making a difference within the lives of our young people,” Minister Abrahams said.
The camp which began on Thursday will end on Sunday, coinciding with schools’ mid-term break. (AH)