Substance use has a detrimental effect on the prosperity and health of all nations and is well recognised as a significant barrier to both teaching and learning. It has been associated with a host of high risk behaviours including crime, illiteracy, unprotected sex and violence, mental and physical health, and traffic accidents.
Cayman joins the global community in commemorating International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on the 26th of June 2012. The theme for this year's commemoration is "Global action for healthy communities without drugs".
Healthy communities without drugs poses significant challenge to the educational system both in terms of health and educational outcomes. Substance abuse has been linked to academic difficulties, absenteeism, and drop-out from schooling. According to the 2010 Cayman Islands Student Drug Use Survey conducted among grade 7-12, about 54% of students have used alcohol in their lifetime, with 32% engaging in binge-drinking (5 or more drinks in one sitting) during the past month. The study also showed that while 20% of students have used marijuana (ganja) in their lifetime, 14% have smoked cigarettes during the year prior to the survey. The National Drug Council is currently analyzing the data from its most recent survey conducted in the schools in April of this year.
Despite these frightening statistics many of our students are choosing to refrain from any drug use. According to the survey results 54% of students reported not using any drugs. With 57% of them reporting that their parents take the time out to talk to them about the importance of avoiding alcohol and drugs and over 40% report being involved in wholesome activities such as youth groups or sporting practices weekly.
The commemoration aimed at sensitising the public about substance abuse and its devastating impact on individuals, families and communities will mobilise communities and stakeholders in combating substance abuse. The national commemoration on the 26th June 2012 is preceded by public and private school presentations, youth dialogues, media campaigns and distribution of pamphlets and information sessions.
Schools across the islands continues to join hands with the NDC and other key stakeholders to show their full support for and active participation year round to educate on the dangers of drug use and abuse.
"The active participation of educators, school support staff, students, officials and parents is required to offer the necessary support to those within our schools that abuse substance and to implement evidence-based interventions that prevent substance use in schools" said Joan West-Dacres Executive Director of the NDC. "Schools have a critical role to play in improving awareness and equipping students with strategies to make informed decisions about substance use."
In support of this year's commemoration, we encourage and call on all schools to dedicate teaching time and/or hold events to highlight the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, free from alcohol, drug and substance misuse and abuse. The NDC as always will be pleased to provide support through presentations during your school year.