Below is the full text of an address by Health Minister, Julius Timothy, in observance of Drug Awareness Month 2012.
The Ministry of Health through the National Drug Abuse Prevention Unit each year observes January as Drug Awareness Month. This Year our theme is “My Community…My Choice, No Drugs!!!
As we recall other themes such as “Imagine a life without Drug Abuse,” “Responsibility the key to being drug free,” or Think Health…Not Drugs,” we can appreciate that this year’s theme is an amalgamation of the previous years.
Drug abuse poses a major threat to the security of our homes, our communities and our nation. Children, youths and adults are being affected by the ills and problems associated with drug use and drug trafficking.
Statistics from the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force showed that in 2010 the following illicit drugs were confiscated 156,988 cannabis trees, 29,143 cannabis seedlings, 633,485grams(cannabis weed) and 1420 grams of cocaine. In 2010, 225 nationals were charged with cannabis related crimes, 201 were adult males, 10 adult females, and 14 juveniles consisting of 13 males and 1 female. This is compared to 2009 where 198 nationals were charged, 179 adult males, 12 adult females and 7 male juveniles. These figures indicate the particular vulnerability of our males to the drug trade.
In 2011 we admitted 445 persons to the Acute Psychiatric Unit of the Princess Margaret Hospital. Two hundred and forty-seven (247) were treated for marijuana, alcohol and crack related mental health problems. Therefore, more the 55 percent of admissions to the APU were due to the abuse of drugs. Many motor vehicle accidents and uncontrolled Diabetes and Hypertension are secondary to drug abuse.
I therefore want to remind you that smoking of marijuana in particular is not ok. Recently I visited a village in Dominica and what I saw was frightening. About 60 percent of the males between the ages of 12 to 74 were abusing drugs and alcohol.
When able bodied men and women sit in prison, the psychiatric Unit or on the various blocks in our communities and cannot contribute meaningfully to the workforce as a result of their drug use this is cause for concern. Many of these individuals leave children in these communities with little or no support.
While Government has the responsibility to protect and help those at risk, communities must provide the ongoing support for those who have made the choice to remain drug free and to those who have become victims to drug addiction.
Last year the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) themed International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking “Global Action for Healthy Communities without Drugs.” As Community based intervention is one of the prevention strategies to be employed in drug demand reduction efforts.
An African proverb states “It takes a village to raise a child,” hence we believe that society has a responsibility to protect its citizens from the scourge of drug abuse. We all must play our part. By cultivating refusals and life skills as early as preschool and kindergarten we enable children to make healthy choices as they grow up.
Research has shown that the best approach to prevention and treatment lies in the support of families, schools, churches and community based organisations. This approach seeks to increase the protective factors for building safe and healthy communities.
Fellow Dominicans, there is no one size fit all solution to the challenges brought about by drug use and abuse, drunkenness, marijuana and crack/cocaine is not acceptable in our neighbourhood, on our streets or in our homes. In light of this year’s theme I call upon all communities to take action to:
• Advocate on behalf of stake holders working in the areas of supply reduction, money laundering, prevention and treatment
• Inform and educate community members on the dangers of drug abuse
• Support organised anti drug activities in your communities
• Create spaces where individuals and groups can recreate in an environment free from drugs
• Provide financial support for projects and programs geared towards prevention and treatment.
• Increase parental role in early detection of drug use by children
• Get involved in keeping children and drugs apart
• Support the work of the National Drug Abuse Prevention Unit.
As we observe Drug Awareness Month 2012, let us make a commitment to keep our communities safe and healthy guided by the theme “My Community….My Choice, No Drugs!!!