Caribbean drug observatories meet to examine latest trends in drug use

At the event, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), which is the OAS specialized agency for drug control coordination under the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security (SMS), officially released a comparative study of drug use among secondary school students in 12 Caribbean countries, the first published report of its kind for the region. 

Experts from 16 OAS member countries, as well as representatives of the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, discussed the ramifications of the study’s findings on government policy. The meeting, which was closed by the newly appointed CICAD executive secretary Paul Simons, also featured guest speakers from the University of the West Indies, the University of Guyana, St. Georges University in Grenada, and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), as well as several local experts from Trinidad and Tobago. 

The CICAD comparative study, available here and released at the meeting aims to synthesize the most current data on drug consumption in the Caribbean in order to paint a more comprehensive picture of the regions problem and to fit it into a global context. 

“The findings demonstrate that even though the participating countries share similar histories and cultures, the dimensions of drug use are quite unique to each country,” said Francisco Cumsille, chief of CICAD’s Inter-American Drug Observatory (OID). 

“While alcohol and marijuana are the main drugs of use, patterns still vary widely from country to country. We have to be cautious about making sweeping generalizations of the region,” he added.

“Compared to other regions, the prevalence of marijuana use among the school population in the Caribbean is high,” said Cumsille, “and in some countries, it is higher than the prevalence of tobacco use. This latter finding is one of the unique characterizations of substance use in this region.” 

The purpose of this biennial meeting of Caribbean National Drug Observatories is to present and discuss the latest scientific research and information on drug use, such as the relationship between drugs and crime, and foster discussion on new and innovative research methods and results. 

Drug observatories are usually part of a country’s national drug commission and are typically responsible for providing information to policymakers and practitioners who respond to the challenges posed by the production, trafficking and consumption of controlled substances.

In addition, the meeting included a refresher course on building and managing national drug observatories, with discussions on how best to translate the results of drug-related research into policy and practice so that it can be more useful to those responsible for dealing with the illicit drug trade and/or drug consumption. 

Since its creation in 2000 as part of CICAD, the Inter-American Observatory on Drugs (OID) has been supporting the work of drug observatories throughout the hemisphere to increase the availability, timeliness and quality of drug-related information. 

The OID works with experts to develop refine and standardize drug research methods. It supports countries in the undertaking of studies and surveys on drug use among the general population, as well as key groups such as secondary and university students and emergency room admissions.

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