Over a number of years there has been a growing interest in the extent to which the use of drugs has increased, not only within the Barbadian context but the world as a whole. Much of this concern is due to the association of the social and economic consequences that arise with the use and abuse of drugs.
However, the use of these illicit drugs more often than not starts amongst school children during adolescence. An adolescent (according to the Encarta encyclopedia) is a stage of maturation between childhood and adulthood. The term denotes the period from the beginning of puberty to maturity; it usually starts at about age 14 in males and age 12 in females. The transition to adulthood varies among cultures, but it is generally defined as the time when individuals begin to function independently of their parents. Since this period is generally a quest for independence and experimentation is the key factor, it is not surprising that drug use is initiated within these influential years of life.
Moreover, surveys in several countries have confirmed this trend of drug use by adolescents. The United Kingdom has indicated that 5-20% of school children use drugs with a 2-5% using them weekly with a peak prevalence ranging from the age of 14-16 years of age. In Trinidad and Tobago there is a lifelong prevalence, which initiates amongst the secondary school children at an 8% level for marijuana and 2% for cocaine. In Jamaica a survey of four high schools showed that 60% used one or more drugs, including marijuana and 1.3% had used cocaine.
Clearly, from the statistics mentioned above, the misuse and abuse of drugs by adolescents are global problems, and Barbados is no exception. In Barbados 31% of the admissions to the psychiatric hospital were linked...