Study of student drug use in the Caribbean, 2005-2007


Illustration: book cover showing a map of the Caribbean

Comparative study of student drug use in the Caribbean shows sharp contrasts in trends in each country

The Inter-American Drug Observatory (OID)  released a comparative study of drug use among secondary school students in 12 Caribbean countries, the first published report of its kind for the region. The aim of the study is to synthesize the most current data on drug consumption in the Caribbean in order to paint a more comprehensive picture of this region problem and fit it into a global context.

“The findings demonstrate that even though the participating countries share similar histories and cultures, the dimensions of drug use are quite unique to each country,” says Dr. Francisco Cumsille, OID chief . “While alcohol and marijuana are the main drugs of use, patterns still vary widely from country to country. We have to be cautious about making sweeping generalizations for the region.”

“Compared to other regions, the prevalence of marijuana use in the school population in the Caribbean is high,” said Cumsille, “and in some countries, it is higher than the prevalence of tobacco use. The latter finding is one of the unique characterizations of substance use in this region.”

Several other important findings emerged from the study. For instance, in four out of the 12 countries surveyed, a higher proportion of girls are experimenting with alcohol than boys are.

About half of the students surveyed overall indicated that they could easily access marijuana. Similarly, marijuana was the drug most likely to be offered to students for consumption or purchase.

In another finding, there was a consistent correlation between drug use prevalence and behavioral problems, such that students with higher prevalence rates of drug use run into more trouble with school authorities or police.

By using drug use epidemiology and CICAD’s Drug Use Data System, known by its Spanish acronym SIDUC, the standardized methodology allowed CICAD to undertake a comparative analysis of drug use prevalence and related behavior characteristics so that a reasonable amount of confidence and reliability can be placed in the findings.

The information generated by these types of study clarifies the size and scope of drug use in this important segment of the Caribbean population, and it allows policy makers and program managers to develop and evaluate policies and interventions for dealing with the consequences of drug abuse. It also sets a baseline for future studies.

The participating countries were Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname. All surveys took place between 2005 and 2007 and covered a sampling of male and female students between in ages of 13 and 17. Sample size was nearly 40,000. Surveys took place between 2005 and 2007.

The OID supported all the individual studies in the participating countries and expressed its appreciation to the ministries of education, national drug commissions and/or national drug information systems for contributing to the report. The SIDUC program is on-going, and more comparative studies will be forthcoming.

Not only will the persons and agencies responsible for drug use prevention and drug treatment benefit from these publications, but the target populations and ultimately the countries in which they live will enjoy tangible benefits as well.

Comparative Analysis of Student Drug Use in Caribbean Countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname. A Report on Student Drug Use in 12 Caribbean Countries. Organization of American States (Washington, DC, 2011): 88 pages in full color, 3 appendixes (most indicated risks factors for each country, SIDUC methodology for secondary school students and questionnaire), 42 tables, 37 figures. Online version (PDF, 1.8 mb)

The publication was made possible by a grant from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) of the U.S. Department of State.

For more information about the study, please contact Pernell Clarke, Research Specialist (E-mail address). It is available in print and electronically at CICAD.

updated on 3/26/2012 2:35:24 PM