The National Anti-Narcotics Agency (NANA) conducted a National Drug Prevalence Survey among secondary school students in Guyana, which concluded that 40 per cent of teenagers are unaware of the risks associated with drug use.
Although the survey was conducted six years ago, NANA said in a statement to the media on Monday that substance abuse in on the increase, especially with the sale of ecstasy in schools across the various administrative regions.
“In addition to the use of ecstasy, it was discovered that the use of alcohol among young children is a very prevalent occurrence despite laws governing the sale of alcohol to persons under the age of 18 years old,” NANA explained.
To curb this situation, the agency said it has been collaborating with key stakeholders to spread awareness to the youths about the impact that substance abuse and early initiation into substance use can have on their bodies and lives.
According to NANA, since its establishment and launching in 2017, the agency has been advancing initiatives set forth in the National Drug Strategy Master Plan 2016-2020 which outlines the need for drug prevention programmes targeting youths in schools and communities.
NANA has also been collaborating with the Guyana Police Force – Narcotics Branch, Customs Anti-Narcotics Agency (CANU), the Ministry of Education’s Health Promotions Unit and NGO partners such as Social Life Issues to engage young people at various youth camps across Georgetown, including the Sophia community.
In addition, the agency said it has also taken its message of a “drug-free and healthy lifestyle” to young people of the Malteenoes and Demerara Cricket Clubs.
The narcotics agency noted that it is cognisant of the fact that a key factor in reducing the demand for drugs within the society is to target young people and to equip them with the tools and skills needed.
As such, the agency said it is keen on focusing on the promotion of sports and other extra-curricular activities to positively engage our youths and to promote healthy communities.
A recent survey conducted in various parts of the country by the Public Health Ministry had discovered that new substances are being abused by youths at a rapid pace.
Project Director at the Drug Demand Reduction Services arm of the Ministry, Sylvia Cort told the media last month that from an exercise in Essequibo Coast, lots of reports were forwarded that more young people are misusing substances, while at the same time pointing out that there are some new substances that are on the market.
In fact, she said there are reports of persons even “sniffing” gasoline. “We know they are misusing prescription drugs…they are misusing solvents; some young people are even sniffing gasoline. So there is an upsurge. There is also an upsurge in them using ecstasy and there is a new one on the market, Malay I think is one.”
This new drug, she noted, is a “night club” substance which is generally added to drinks. Cort said it disturbs a person’s thought process, meaning that a drugged person will be unconscious of their actions.