Does our country have a drug problem?
That’s the question, presumably, that the Cayman Islands National Drug Council endeavors to answer through its surveys of local schoolchildren on their use of alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and other drugs.
The results from the Drug Council’s 2012 report are disturbing: Some 40 percent of Cayman teens reported drinking alcohol in the past year, 15 percent had used marijuana and 12 percent had smoked cigarettes.
(For context, compare that to the 2012 “Monitoring the Future” survey of U.S. teens, conducted at the University of Michigan, showing that 44 percent of U.S. teens had drunk alcohol in the past year, 25 percent had used marijuana and 11 percent had used tobacco.)
From a social order perspective, every underage drinker, underage smoker or marijuana user is committing a criminal offense.
Further, any adult — including parents or guardians — who facilitates an underage teen’s use of these substances is also a lawbreaker who must be held accountable to the police and the courts.
When parents “host” parties for underage youngsters and provide, or are aware of, alcohol or drug usage, it’s time for someone to call the police. No more “wink, wink” at such illegal, irresponsible and dangerous behavior.
Unfortunately, the Drug Council won’t release the full version of the report until — get this — it puts together “the acknowledgements page.” That’s what the Drug Council told a Compass reporter on March 18. Don’t forget that this report is for the year 2012, and it’s now 2014. What is it waiting for?
This inordinate (purposeful?) delay, as well as the condition of the reports themselves, call into question the competency and effectiveness of the Drug Council, which was established by law in 1997 and over the past seven years has had an average budget, paid from the public purse, of $515,000 annually.
According to the law, studying illicit substance use in Cayman is only one, albeit major, part of the Drug Council’s operations. Another primary role of the Drug Council is to come up with ways to prevent and reduce drug abuse.
Using its own survey results, let’s see how the Drug Council has performed:
- In 1998, 40 percent of Cayman teens reported using alcohol, compared to 40 percent in 2012.
- In 1998, 7 percent reported using marijuana, compared to 15 percent in 2012.
- In 1998, 9 percent reported smoking cigarettes, compared to 12 percent in 2012.
Those numbers are going the wrong direction.
Contrast that to the U.S., where usage rates have dropped for all three of those substances over the same time period — from 60 percent to 44 percent for alcohol, 28 percent to 25 percent for marijuana, and 27 percent to 11 percent for tobacco.
Why, since the establishment of the Drug Council, have Cayman’s teens continued to drink, toke and smoke at an unabated rate, contrary to U.S. trends?
Which begs us to ask: Why does Cayman even have a Drug Council? Couldn’t government put all or a portion of that $515,000 per year to better use — for example, contracting with the University of Michigan to extend its benchmark U.S. survey to Cayman?