The National Council of Substance Abuse (NCSA) is concerned about the debut of synthetic cannabis on the local drug scene.
Marking Drug Awareness Month, Troy Wickham, deputy director of the NCSA, disclosed that there were "anecdotal reports" of synthetic cannabis being used on the island. Highlighting that this development was a cause for concern, Wickham made mention of the abuse of new psychoactive substances (NPS).
"We do not have any data to suggest the presence of NPS in Barbados at this time. However, there are anecdotal reports of synthetic cannabis being used on the island suggesting that they may be emerging on the local drug scene," Wickham remarked.
NPS substances include a range of drugs that may mimic legal and illegal drugs, drugs that are new to the market, or drugs that are newly misused. Common street names include “legal highs”, “bath salts” and “research chemicals”.
The main NPS substance groups include synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones, ketamine, phenethylamines, piperazines, and plant-based substances.
Wickham stated the speed with which NPS appears on the market and can be distributed made it difficult to monitor. Referring to how the drugs were trending in North American markets, the deputy director of the NCSA emphasized that it was "a cause for concern for us here in Barbados".
"Many individuals engage in substance use to experience the feel-good hormone ‘dopamine’; and in so doing, they often seek new ways of getting high or new ways of using traditional substances. This has resulted in increasing numbers of persons consuming new psychoactive substances worldwide."
"The United States of America and Canada are presently experiencing serious NPS and opioid epidemics, resulting in some of the highest overdose rates in the history of drug use. The associated costs are high, both in terms of lives lost and the long-term economic impact. Signs indicate that the use of NPS is likely to continue to spread and this is of concern to us here in Barbados, as we typically follow the trends emerging from North America," Wickham stated.
The NCSA deputy director disclosed that research has shown that synthetic cannabis has more serious side effects than conventional cannabis. He pointed out that the side effects of NPS range from seizures to agitation, aggression, acute psychosis as well as the potential for the development of dependence.
Wickham issued a word of caution saying that because the purity and composition of products containing NPS are often not known, the level of risk was greater.
"NPS users have frequently been hospitalized with severe intoxications. Safety data on the toxicity and carcinogenic potential of many NPS are not yet available or are very limited," he warned.