In Ras Shorty I’s signature song, “Watch Out My Children,” he gave the ominous warning of a man with a bag of white powder. Cocaine, or “white powder”, has brought shame and disgrace to the human race since the crack epidemic of the 1980s.
But the passage of decades has brought with it drugs that rival cocaine and heroin – they come in the form of opioids, kush, spiked marijuana, skinny fentanyl (a sprite and syrup cocktail against cough), methamphetamine and psychedelic drugs such as LSD. Over the years, they have trapped their users in an addictive spiral of drug abuse, often with deadly consequences.
In 2019, producer and host of the award-winning radio show Eye on Dependency, Garth St Clair, warned that drug addiction was rampant at T&T and that if left unchecked, we would face a generation of drug addicts. His comments came before the arrival of Covid-19, which decimated incomes, widened the gap between rich and poor and sent stress levels soaring. The result? The pandemic has exacerbated the drug problem in the country, St Clair said.
“Several families have been affected by job losses and many young people have dropped out of school. So there were cases where nobody at home was working and there were mouths to feed. From our own research, we found that some parents started selling drugs and in some cases even encouraged their children to do the same. corner and sell it,” he said.
Not only do some get involved in criminal activities at a young age, but others, out of curiosity, have fallen into the hellish trap of drug addiction, among its victims are young women who have experimented with drugs, becoming addicted to them. , St Clair said. In the past five years alone, St Clair – whose i95.5 FM show Eye on Dependency deals with drugs, trafficking and criminal justice – has seen a worrying rise in cases of drug use among young people. He has received several calls from parents who have observed mood swings and erratic behavior in their children and are unsure what to do about it.
It is well documented that brain development does not reach full maturity until the age of 25, therefore the effects that drugs can have on the minds of young people can be disastrous. Also, if a person has a history of mental illness, drug use, which leads to anxiety, depression, and hallucinations, can make their problems worse.
“If a person who has mental health issues touches drugs, their response will be different from that of a ‘normal’ person and it will be worse if they use psychedelic drugs like LSD,” said St Clair, who added that mixing medication with drugs or alcohol can be deadly.
Given the impact drugs have on its users, St Clair is particularly interested in exploring the possible link between drug use and the crimes we see. He believes that many crimes are committed under the influence of drugs.
“When we hear of a brother taking a cutlass to kill his own brother, we wonder: what would make someone do such a thing? We have to look not just at the act itself but at the cause,” he insists.
However, St Clair says our society is “flying blind” when it comes to drug enforcement.
“The Police Department does not have a drug squad. In some overseas constituencies, there is a police unit in charge of taking blood from a person, dead or alive, to do a narcotics test,” he said.
Such a system would help law enforcement determine if the person in question has drugs in their system, and it would also give them a clear idea of what drugs are circulating, St Clair explained.
One drug that has grown in popularity over the past decade is kush or “OG”, which is hybrid cannabis. The plant is sprayed with a chemical compound that gives the user a different feeling because its THC (the main psychoactive ingredient) is much stronger than marijuana.
“With regular marijuana, the ‘head’ lasts about two to three hours. But with kush, some people have to take it every half hour; it relaxes the user, makes them sleepy, but it has the same effect as cocaine, it can make the user angry and aggressive,” St Clair said.
The decriminalization of marijuana had several consequences, St Clair said. Due to increased competition, some have improved marijuana by doping it with cocaine to give it a stronger kick; in addition, battles over profits have led to turf wars.
“Before we talk about decriminalization, there should have been a national education campaign on who should use marijuana and who shouldn’t, and that should have started at the school level; instead, we did it backwards,” he said.
Young people under pressure
St Clair, a former drug addict, has made drug prevention his mission for more than 20 years, but he admits he feels tired and frustrated when he considers the number of lives, especially those of young men, destroyed by drugs.
If St Clair were a calypsonian, he would have written a calypso entitled “I have a son” because many of the disturbing calls he receives from concerned mothers who contact him through his Eye on Dependency program begin with the words “I have a son”. .’.
From the days when Hazel Manning was Minister for Education, St Clair has called for drug education to be included in the school curriculum at least once a week, in a bid to reach young people before criminal elements cannot seize them. Those calls go unanswered, so for now, St Clair is continuing his on-air addiction prevention program, along with his wife and co-host, Natasha Nunez-St Clair. Over the years he has also been invited to speak at schools all over the country and as far away as Matura and Rio Claro.
“Of course, I would like to be able to save all the young people. but if I stopped a single person from falling into the trap of drug use, I would have done my job,” he said.
St Clair concedes that young people are under enormous pressure from all angles, and the temptation to experiment is strong, especially if there is drug use by a parent or guardian in the same household. While Eye on Dependency has been successful, there are those who give in to curiosity or peer pressure and get high on drugs. He urges parents to be vigilant.
“Don’t use your busy schedule as an excuse,” St Clair said. “Be on top of your kids like never before. Many children have their own room; be aware of what is in their room, their bags and in their pockets; watch out for bits of foil, loose foils or vape pens, which come in all shapes and sizes these days. And pay close attention to changes in their behavior, friends, and habits. If your child constantly needs money, something is wrong.