Editorial for May 20: Children getting into bad habits

The newest Cayman Islands Drug Use Survey of children in grades seven through 12 does contain some good news, but it certainly doesn’t overshadow the bad by any stretch of the imagination.

The good news in the survey is that children who reported they don’t abuse any substances is up to 54.1 per cent from 47.2 per cent in 2006 and the percentage of students that restrict their substance abuse to alcohol only fell from 30.3 per cent in 2006 to 20.4 per cent in 2010. And one more glimmer of good news – inhalant use has dropped from 3.1 per cent in 2006 to only 1 per cent in 2010.

The bad news – and there’s a lot of it in the report – is that alcohol is the favourite substance of choice to abuse; 54.1 per cent of the students surveyed fessed up to taking a nip now and then. The second substance of choice is tobacco (14.4 per cent, which is up from 0.4 per cent in 2006 to 1.1 per cent in 2010) and the third is ganja (12.8 per cent).

From there the list includes donkey weed, which we’re told is grown on some school grounds; inhalants, which are glues and solvents easily found at home; tranquillisers, which the students say they’re getting from home; oxycotin; stimulants; ecstasy; magic mushrooms; seasoned spliff, which is ganja mixed with cocaine; cocaine powder; methamphetamine; LSD; crack cocaine; methadone; and heroin.

The worrying trend, say those at the National Drug Council, is the increased used of tranquillisers by the students. We have to question why parents and guardians aren’t noticing missing prescription drugs and why they aren’t taking better care at where they leave their bottles of meds. We have to ask the same question about alcohol. It’s a pretty good bet that a lot of the alcohol that is being consumed is coming from students’ homes.

All of this means that many of the 88 per cent of the students polled in nine middle and high schools and those at Eagle House have access to and are consuming unhealthy substances, with many likely setting themselves up to be life-long addicts.

We have to do a better job of educating our children about drug abuse and becoming more informed ourselves as parents and guardians.