Drug Abuse in the Global Village

Extent of Drug Abuse:  Cannabis is reported the most abused drug according to a survey of adults living in New Providence and Grand Bahamas. The estimated annual prevalence of cannabis is 2.3 per cent and daily abuse is estimated at 0.9 per cent# (U.N. 1990). Cannabis is also reported as the most prevalent drug of abuse in schools, with "ever" abuse estimated at about 8.2 per cent. Tranquilizers, in the form of sleeping pills or quaaludes, are the next most abused drugs, with "ever" abuse estimated at 7.4 per cent (School Survey 1987).
According to the survey of adults, cocaine is the next most abused drug. The estimated annual prevalence of cocaine is 1.1 per cent and daily prevalence is about 0.5 per cent (U.N. 1990).
Abuser Characteristics: According to studies completed in 1988, drug abuse is most common among males. The highest risk group is in the 16-25 age range. Higher rates of abuse are reported among persons having school problems, those experiencing family instability, those from families who traffic or abuse drugs and students with economic problems. Cocaine abusers are reported to come from all social strata. Abuse is most common among those with lower "mental health" levels, those who are not married and those who don't attend church regularly. Cannabis abusers are mostly teenagers and young persons of all social strata, as well as "Rastafarians" (U.N. 1990; Community Survey 1991; Drug Abuse in the Bahamas 1988).
Older students (16 years and over) tend to be the heaviest abusers of most substances. Most abusers of cocaine and cannabis start abuse at about 15 years of age. Heroin abuse appears most common among the 15-18 year old group. More males (8.4 per cent ) than females (0.6 per cent) abuse cannabis annually. Similarly, more males (1.9 per cent) than females (0.6 per cent) abuse cocaine annually. The peak ages of abuse are 17 (8.3 per cent) and 19 (18.2 per cent) years of age (School Survey 1987).
Another survey reports high rates of illicit drug abuse among young males between 18-29 years of age. In New Providence, cannabis annual abuse in this age group was estimated at 15.6 per cent and cocaine abuse was estimated at about 8.9 per cent (Community Survey 1991).
The following table shows the percentages of drug abuse in selected populations in the Bahamas. (CMO, 1990).

Table 1. Reported "Ever" Drug Abuse in Selected Samples in the Bahamas#
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------                                 -                       -                      
                        Can-   Coc-     Heroin  Tranq   Pills##
                        nabis    aine                  uilizers
 Seniors            8.2%    1.7%    0.3%    ---        7.4%
College of
 Bahamas         11.3%  3.7%    0.5%    5.9%    ---
 Delinquents      57%     11%     ---        15%     ---
 females            37.5%  62.5%  4.2%    16.7%  ---
#Males 1st
 offence            55.6%  51.1%  0%       4.4%    ---
 Recidivists       68.9%  80%     2.2%    22.2%  ---
#Except for the prison population, percentages are for ever abuse (prison percentage refers to past months prior to incarceration)
## sleeping pills or quaaludes
Source: CMO, 1990.

Regional Variations: There is a higher rate of abuse of all drugs in New Providence than in Grand Bahamas. Of the general population of New Providence, 5.7 per cent reported "ever" abusing cocaine, while 5.4 per cent reported so in Grand Bahamas. Cannabis "ever" abuse was similar in both islands (14 per cent), hallucinogens "ever" abuse was rare, and "ever" abuse of heroin was reported as not significant (Community Survey 1991).       
Reports of annual abuse were also higher in New Province than Grand Bahamas. For example, cocaine abuse was about 2.4 per cent in New Province compared to 0.9 per cent in Grand Bahamas (Community Survey 1991).
Cocaine is reported abused in all regions except for San Salvador, a remote island. Cannabis is abused on all islands (U.N. 1990).
Trends: UNDCP key informants survey indicates some decrease in the abuse of cocaine and cannabis for 1989 and 1990 (U.N. 1989, 1990).

Mode of intake: Freebasing is reported prevalent among 80 per cent of cocaine abusers, while the remaining 20 per cent snort cocaine (School Survey, 1987).


In 1990, there was a total of 5 cocaine related deaths reported. Two were the result of overdoses (U.N. 1990).
Cocaine abuse is believed to have lead to a marked increase in the incidence of AIDS cases and HIV infection. AIDS incidence rates per 100,000 increased from 15.5 in 1985, to 38.1 in 1988 and to 67.7 in 1989. There is also an increase in violence, which is attributed to teenage gangs engaged in anti-social and violent behavior at schools and on the streets. Illegal possession of hand guns related to cocaine problems was also observed (U.N. 1990; Bahamas Ministry of Health 1990).
Unemployment is considered a prime cause of the islands drug abuse problem. Official reports indicate high levels of concern relating to cocaine abuse (EIU 1991-1992).

National Strategy: Demand reduction activities are spearheaded by the National Drug Council and are implemented with the help of non governmental organizations like Drug Action Service, Operation Hope, churches and schools. Many are funded by international organizations. A significant reduction in the number of freebase cocaine abusers is attributed to demand reduction efforts (Review Document 1990-1991). Other efforts to eliminate the use of Bahamian territory as a conduit for illicit drug trafficking include the enacting of a new legislation, amendment of existing legislation, establishment of three full time courts for drug matters and participation in international conferences (Country Statement 1991).


Treaty adherence: Bahamas is party to the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 Convention and the 1988 Convention.



Primary Prevention: There are various education and information programmes in the field of drug prevention. The Drug Action Service provides volunteer training and the National Drug Service offers such programmes as pre-teen workshops, information rallies on drugs and AIDS, medical workshops to increase awareness in matters related to drug education and prevention, the provision of educational material to assist schools with antichemical/drug prevention programmes and trainers workshops. Religious organizations make a significant contribution to prevention programmes (U.N. 1990).
An interesting outreach prevention programme was initiated in 1989. Street workers in a minivan equipped with educational material operate as an outreach resource center to inform the community about the consequences of drugs abuse, AIDS and treatment services (Review Document 1991).
Treatment and Rehabilitation: Residential and non-residential programmes are complemented with out-patients after care services, individual and family therapy, counselling, follow up programmes, vocational training and outreach programmes (U.N. 1990).
In 1990, the first National Training Course in Drug Abuse was held in Nassau. The goal was to provide a comprehensive introduction to the diverse issues in drug rehabilitation with a view to maintaining or improving the quality of care in all programmes (Review Document 1991).
It is reported that, in spite of these efforts, less than one percent of students with cocaine and cannabis abuse problems received counselling (School Survey 1987).

Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences: The number of people arrested for traffic or possession of illicit drugs in the Bahamas has not fluctuated much in the last few years. In 1992, a reported total of 1,135 people were arrested for such offenses (CICAD 1993).
In 1989, a total of 1,261 persons were arrested for drug offenses. During 1990, the number of arrests increased to 1,443. Most of the persons arrested were Bahamians, followed by Americans (Country Statement 1991).
According to a 1987 school survey, 0.4 per cent of students surveyed had been arrested for cocaine, and 0.5 per cent had been arrested for cannabis abuse (School Survey 1987).

Seizures: The government initiated several measures in mid 1987 to intensify efforts to suppress illicit traffic of marijuana and cocaine transiting the country. The 5.58 metric tonnes of cocaine seized in 1989 was a 42 per cent reduction from the 9.35 metric tonnes seized in 1988. The 2.53 metric tonnes seized in 1990 was 54 per cent less than the amount seized in 1989, and the seizure of 3.62 metric tonnes in 1991 was a 30 per cent increase over the 2.53 metric tonnes seized in 1990, but below the record 10.4 metric tonnes seized in 1987 (Country Statement 1992).

From 1983 through 1987, seizures of cannabis which was transiting the Bahamas averaged 104 metric tonnes, whereas from 1988 through 1991, they averaged 3 metric tonnes (Country Statement 1992).
Supply Source of Drugs: The geophysical setting of the Bahamas, consisting of more than seven hundred islands and cays spread over some 100,000 square miles provides an ideal transit area for drugs from South America to the USA. The wide geophysical dispersion presents many difficult problems for law enforcement (Review Document 1991).

References and Notes

** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was not available by 15th January 1994.

U.N. 1989,1990. Replies to Annual Reports Questionnaire.

Bahamas Ministry of Health 1990."Basic Health Information Commonwealth of the Bahamas". Health Information Coordinating Services. Nassau. 1990.

CICAD 1993. First Report of the Inter-American Data Bank to the CICAD.

CMO 1990. Replies to the questionnaire concerning the seven targets of the Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug Abuse Control.

Community Survey 1991. in "Bahamas Government, Ministry of Health, Review Document, 1990-1991" Ministry of Health. Nassau. 1991.

Country Statement 1991. "Situation and Trends and Prevention and Reduction of Illicit Demand". Item 4 and 6. Commission on Narcotic Drugs. 34th Session. 1991.

Country Statement 1992. Statement before the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. 35th Session. 1992.

Drug Abuse in the Bahamas 1988. "Drug Abuse in the Bahamas. An Interpretation of Studies Completed in 1988". Ministry of Health. Nassau. 1988.

EIU 1991-1992. The Economist Intelligence Unit. "Belize,Bahamas,Bermuda Country Profile 1991-1992". Business International Limited. London. 1991.

Review Document 1990-1991. "Bahamas Government, Ministry of Health,  Review Document 1990-1991".Ministry if Health. Nassau. 1991.

School Survey 1987. in "Bahamas Government, Ministry of Health, Review Document, 1990-1991" Ministry of Health. Nassau. 1991.