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Education key to drug prevention

National security minister Jeffrey Baron addresses drug prevention summit (Photograph by Stephen Raynor)

Educating the public about the risks and methods for preventing drug and alcohol use are key to reducing use in Bermuda, according to Senator Jeffrey Baron.

The Minister for National Security formally opened the Substance Abuse Prevention Faith Based Summit today at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute as part of September’s Recovery Month.

The Department for National Drug Control, in conjunction with the island’s treatment agencies, have used this month to educate Bermuda about substance use treatment and mental health services. The summit, designed for those in the faith community, continues tomorrow from 10am to 3pm at BUEI.

Addressing those present, Mr Baron said: “The DNDC’s demand reduction action plans for the prevention of drugs include educating the public about the risks and methods for preventing engagement in, not only harsher illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine, but also the inappropriate use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana which in many instances have been reported to be the precursors to the use of the harsher drugs.

“The action plans also include the implementation of research-based prevention programming and methodologies to effectively reduce drug use among youth and to formulate community partnerships with entities such as members of our faith community.”

Mr Baron went on to talk about how the faith community can be a “critical link” in the effort of substance abuse prevention.

Referencing the Manuel for Prevention Specialists: People of Faith Partners in Prevention, Mr Baron said: “It also shows that religion and spirituality can provide protection from substance abuse, and that the faith community can play an appropriate and essential role in responding to this immensely important and complex problem that historically has been left almost entirely to the secular world.

“Identified goals for the DNDC are to reduce drug-related harms by recognising the drug problem as a major public health threat; to minimise the immediate concerns to the community in the context of the principal harms of drug use and abuse such as crime, public nuisance, drug-related violence, physical and mental health problems, social and community degradation.”

Outlining the faith community’s role he continued: “Faith communities can: respond to questions and concerns related to helping people develop personal guidelines that can help make them safe, legal and appropriate choices about substance use and non-use; provide support for youth and families; help members understand the spiritual dimensions of substance abuse problems and prevention; work with other institutions and organisations within the community to design and implement community-based drug prevention efforts.”