PRESS RELEASE: Director – National Drug Abuse Prevention Unit, Jacinta Bannis


Drug Awareness month 2011 is being observed under the theme Think Health – Not Drugs.


Let us give support to Prime Minister Hon. Roosevelt Skeritt suggestion in making health a priority issue in 2011.  The onus then is on every one of us to adopt a healthy lifestyle.  A recent presentation by Dr. Paul Ricketts, Epidemiologist at the Health Information Unit of the Ministry of Health, raised the issue of the negative effects of tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption on many of the Chronic Non-Communicable  Diseases (CNCDs).


He further stated that the way that tobacco and alcohol is being advertised is a cause for much concern.  The availability and accessibility of tobacco and alcohol products makes it very easy for teenagers to purchase.  The STEPS survey of chronic disease risk factors in Dominica carried out in 2007/2008 indicated  that alcohol consumption for males is 64.2% and for females 37.3% while tobacco use is16.6% for males and 3.2% for females.


The Ministry of Health has taken several steps to assist in alleviating the abuse of alcohol and tobacco in our country.  In November 2010, during Drug Awareness Week, 12 of our secondary schools participated in a series of discussions on the topic, “Should Tobacco Smoking Be Banned in Public Places?”  Overwhelming, the students supported in the affirmative and justified their position convincingly.   They reiterated over and over the danger of second hand smoke.


Making Government Headquarters a smoke-free zone is another initiative being undertaken by the Health Promotion Resource Centre and the National Drug Abuse Prevention Unit.  Sensitization sessions were conducted with staff of the various ministries to raise awareness and to give feedback on the process.  We envision the Tobacco Free Initiative will be introduced to other public places in order to reduce the effects of tobacco smoke.


Our health is our wealth.  Our people are our best resource. The Pan American Health Organization sums it clearly “Health: Our Most valuable Resource.” As we observe Drug Awareness Month 2011, let us think of the health of individuals, the community and the nation.  The harmful effect that both legal (alcohol tobacco, prescription) and illegal (marijuana, cocaine, and crack) drugs impact on society is monumental.   Some of the negative impact includes loss productivity in the workplace, the burden of illness on the health system, accidental death, crime and violence to include domestic violence and child abuse.


Go visit institutions such as the Prison, the Acute Psychiatric Unit, and the hospital or take a walk in our city, town and villages to see the grim reality of the effects of drugs on family members, friends and acquaintances.


As a young nation we have the opportunity to change course and to reduce the demand for drugs.  We all must play our part.  Early intervention is critical in helping children make good choices.  Parents being the first teachers have an important role to play in shaping the way that children are socialized. There are Risk factors that enable our children to become involved in using and abusing substances that will affect their health in the long run.  The drug addict did not become an addict overnight so too is the alcoholic.  It started with the first puff or pull, or the first drink.  The Protective factors encourages self esteem which enables children and adults to say no to drugs and to peer pressure as a means of avoiding drug use.


During 2011 let us focus on the theme “Think Health- Not Drugs”. Give support to your friends and family members who are ready to make changes to their drug and alcohol habits.  Remember, to make good decisions, arm yourself with the right information.  Knowledge is Power.


The National Drug Abuse Prevention Unit will continue to build partnership with stakeholders in pursuing its mandate in the area of Drug Demand Reduction.  Let the Health of the nation be the wealth of the nation.



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