Synthetic drugs provide new challenges for healthcare officials

The emergence of new synthetic drugs on the market has not gone unnoticed by Government and other officials involved in the fight against drug abuse.

Proposals to reform and modernise existing legislation and advise Cabinet going forward are presently under discussion by the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA), the Barbados Drug Service, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

This was disclosed by Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, as he addressed the opening ceremony for a training workshop on the Global Synthetic Drug Monitoring Programme: Analysis, Reporting and Trends (SMART) Programme for local law enforcement practitioners and agencies involved in the drug fight, at the Regional Police Training Centre, recently.

“New psychoactive substances (NPS) are chemicals that work like illegal drugs, but there are much more dangerous as their content and effects are most often unknown. These new psychoactive drugs present a danger to public health and are not prohibited by conventions on international narcotics,” he said.

Hinkson warned that the non-medical use of prescription drugs, synthetic drugs and opioids demonstrated how drug use patterns were changing.

He explained that the NPS and emerging drugs were presenting a number of problems and challenges for those who work in areas of demand reduction, treatment, rehabilitation and supply of controlled drugs.

The challenges include a lack of knowledge about safety and toxicity, users being unaware of what they consume, production relocation, substances that are outside of international controland difficulties in identifying the substances chemically.

Director of the Barbados Drug Service, Maryam Hinds, also highlighted the need for increased regulation.

“We do have legislation, but it is not up to date, and a lot of those substances are not yet on the legislation, but through the NCSA, we have been working on how we can improve and update our legislation, so that we are not left behind,” she said.

Meanwhile, Canadian High Commissioner, Marie Legault, noted that Canada recorded about 13 000 deaths between 2016 and 2018 as a result of opioid abuse, while a further 17 000 persons were hospitalised with opioid poisoning.

However, she lamented that it was unfortunate Barbados and other countries in the Caribbean did not have similar statistics, so a comparison could be done on the magnitude of the crisis.

“It is an unprecedented rate of death. It is a major crisis. It is one of the most significant public health crises that we have had in our generation.” It was so severe that it had impacted the life expectancy in Canada, she said, noting that it called for a holistic approach.

The High Commissioner said the seminar was part of Canada’s investment of BDS$5 million in the region to combat illicit drugs.

“This seminar is for us to identify, detect and respond to the threat of synthetic drugs, which is a big issue,” Legault stated.

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