ST JOHN’S, Antigua – A recent report by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) has found that alcohol and marijuana are the choice drugs among Caribbean secondary school students although “patterns vary widely from country to country.”
The comparative study on drug abuse among secondary school students in 12 Caribbean countries was released during the fourth biennial meeting of the Caribbean National Drug Observatories in Trinidad & Tobago on Friday.
The report found that 71.1 per cent of Antiguan and Barbudan students admitted to alcohol use in their lifetime compared to a regional average of 68.9 per cent.
However, only 49.2 per cent said they had used alcohol in the past year compared to the regional average of 51 per cent and only 31.3 per cent said they had drunk alcohol in the past month, compared to 36.7 regionally.
The study points out that “alcohol is a substance that has a very intimate association with the Caribbean region in terms of both its history as well as its culture – the Caribbean being historically a major producer of sugar cane and rum” and that ”its use is generally accepted as a norm for adults in many social settings and as a part of their diet.”
Overall in Antigua & Barbuda, students reported using alcohol for the first time at an average age of 11.28 compared to 10.84 regionally.
Thirty one per cent of Antigua and Barbudan high school students admitted to binge drinking or having more than five drinks in one sitting.
The study points out that a strong link was found between alcohol use and behavioural problems.
“Students were asked about the number of discipline or behaviour problems that they have experienced during their school years and the responses were categorised as ‘none’, ‘few times’ and ‘frequently’. The results indicate that there is a consistent positive relationship between past year prevalence and behavioural problems. This relationship is such that as the number of behavioural problems increase so too does prevalence of alcohol use,” the report stated.
On the use of marijuana, the country ranked poorly compared to many of its neighbours.
According to the report, 23.9 per cent of students in Antigua & Barbuda indicated using marijuana once in their life, higher than the regional average of 17 per cent and even higher than Jamaica’s average of 21.5 per cent.
The results of the study also show that in most of the participating countries, marijuana is the most widely used illicit substance.
The study, the first published report of its kind for the region, was discussed by experts from 16 member countries of the Organisation of American States (OAS) as well as representatives of the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
The study quizzed around 40,000 students from Antigua & Barbuda (2,057), Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts/Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago.
The full report can be accessed at http://www.cicad.oas.org/Main/pubs/StudentDrugUseCaribbean2011.pdf.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)