EDITORIAL: Keep an eye out for new drugs

When it comes to the use and abuse of mind-altering drugs, the world certainly is becoming a scary place. Not only do we have to contend with the traditional drugs with which we have some familiarity, but we now have to keep an eye out for new drugs on the market, which could cause the public harm.

Of late, the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) has raised the alarm about the need for the monitoring of new psychoactive substances or new drugs which may come onto the market in Barbados. The NCSA has gone even further, to start the ball rolling for what will be the establishment of an Early Warning System that will help in this regard.

Jonathan Yearwood, Research and Information Officer at the NCSA, in commenting on these New Psychoactive Substances, recently stated, “Some of these substances mimic the illegal substances. So for instance, you may have the traditional substances like marijuana, cocaine and heroin, but there are other substances out there that are imported through the Internet, or they are even in the shops because they are legal, but these substances, because of their combinations, can have just as much harmful effect as the traditional substances and pose a tremendous threat to public health.”

His comments came after Troy Wickham, Deputy Manager of the NCSA, announced that an Early Warning System (EWS) will be established to promptly detect, test and distribute information on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) that pose a threat to public health, by way of their consumption. Wickham further explained that NPS are drugs that are not controlled by the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs or the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, but which may pose a public health threat, comparable to that posed by substances listed in these conventions. NPS include a range of drugs that mimic legal and illegal drugs, drugs that are new to the market or drugs that are newly misused.

The Deputy Manager of the NCSA meanwhile has noted, “Due to the speed at which an NPS can appear and be distributed, the monitoring of an NPS presents a challenge for law enforcement and to public health. In particular, the distribution of NPS has attracted the attention of criminal networks. As a result, current laws may be slow to recognise the threat to public health from the consumption of an NPS. Reducing the risks associated with these drugs requires new, faster and more effective ways of drug control.”

Indeed, we do need to monitor these new substances, as it will most likely be our youth impacted by their entrance. Youth are always willing to try new things and unfortunately, this includes negative things as well. They may also not be fully aware of what they are dealing with and some public awareness about what is out there is critical.

So amidst the calls for youth and persons of all ages in general to stay away from drugs, it is good that the NCSA is taking the lead in this area and being proactive instead of reactive, in doing what it takes, so we can stay on top of our game and in essence anticipate and reduce the harm that could come from the use and abuse of these New Psychoactive Substances.

Barbados Advocate

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