According to the findings of the most recent survey of drug use shows the consumption of both legal and illegal substances “has marginally decreased amongst Bermuda’s residents over the past four (4) years. But alcohol and marijuana continue to be the top drugs of choice on the island.

In a statement made in the Senate this morning, National Security Minister Jeff Baron said: “Alcohol has remained the legal substance of choice among Bermuda’s adults, while marijuana has remained the most commonly used illegal drug.

“Of all the illicit drugs on the market, marijuana has remained the most popular drug being offered to buy or use in Bermuda and is still the easiest drug to obtain,” he sad.

“A significant proportion of the respondents to the survey, about a third, had friends or family members who take illicit drug(s). The survey results also showed that females had a greater tendency to use legal substances like alcohol, while males were more likely to engage in illegal drug use, such as marijuana use.

“Other interesting findings showed a marginal difference between Blacks and Whites who were current users of alcohol. Blacks accounted for the greater proportion of current users of cigarettes and marijuana; drug use was most prevalent among participants who finished only a secondary-level education; married people drank the most; and substance use was most prevalent among persons working over 40 hours per week,” he added.

The 2017 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted through the Department for National Drug Control, is the fifth survey to “update information collected in the last survey, which was conducted in 2013” to highlight “trends and information related to the drug situation in Bermuda”.

“The report specifically highlights information on drug consumption, risk behaviours, and the drug market in Bermuda, including the amount expended by residents on their substance using habits.”

Senator Baron noted “that the age of first use of the three most-widely used substances (alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana) has increased between 2013 and 2017”.

“In other words, experimentation is starting at an older age. Average age of first use of any drug was as early as 16.3 years (for cigarette use by males) but ranges from 16.9 years (overall for cigarettes) to 30.1 years (for Heroin) for the overall population; with most persons starting to use drugs more than a year ago,” he said.

“In the science of substance abuse prevention, the intent is for the age of first use or experimentation of substances to increase as an indication of delayed drug use. This is, therefore, a good thing for Bermuda,” he added.

“We must continue to support our drug prevention efforts within our schools and the community at large as they appear to be working.”

A random sample of 1,270 adult residents in Bermuda, 16 years or older participated voluntarily. And the information was collected “via telephone interviews over the period of January 18th to February 4th, 2017.

Overall, the Minister said: “Alcohol is indeed a part of the social fabric in Bermuda’s culture. Results of this survey showed that there was a higher tendency for persons to drink alcohol if they have friends or family members who get drunk.

“The survey indicates that most drinking occurs on the weekends, males mainly drank beverages with low and high alcoholic content and females mainly drank beverages of medium alcohol content. Binge drinking or having five or more drinks at once, was more among males, while one in ten persons were drunk on at least one day in the past month.”

Commenting on “perceptions of risk or harms associated with substance using behaviours”, he said: “Drinking alcoholic beverages sometimes, doing so often, and becoming drunk were perceived to be the most harmful of the risky behaviours – even more so than smoking marijuana often.

“Research and conventional wisdom suggest that drug use flourishes when people believe that the risk of harm in using them, either physically or in some other way is low. Nonetheless, alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use were highest, although their use is perceived to be of the highest risk.”

Sen Baron noted that when “survey respondents were asked a question related to alcohol policy”, “almost seven out of ten persons, or 69.5%, indicated being in favour of laws preventing persons from serving alcohol to minors in their homes or on their premises”.

“Given that approximately 70% of the respondents are in favour of laws preventing persons from serving alcohol to minors in their homes or on their premises, the time to act is now,” he said. “The environment in which we live must change if we are to protect the public’s safety.

“This round of the survey also included a question on the use of prescription cannabinoids, in an effort to monitor the use of these substances following the legislative amendment and policy that made their use legal in Bermuda. There was a very small fraction of persons, 0.3%, who reported ever having used prescription cannabinoids such as sativex, marinol, and cesamet.

“Substance use remains a complex phenomenon that presents unique and costly consequences to society. Decision-makers require better data; good policies and programmes require good analysis. No single measurement can reflect the multifaceted nature of problems associated with substance misuse, but basic indicators are needed for planning and action,” Sen Baron said.

“We as policy-makers will continue to face difficult policy choices when tackling issues related to legal substances, illicit drugs, and crime, while ensuring public safety. The Report of the 2017 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health, in both substance and form, represents an important step forward in addressing the challenges presented.

The Minister concluded: “This report, along with other publications of the Department for National Drug Control, provides a clear body of evidence that speaks to the drug situation in Bermuda. I invite you to review the information in this report, and utilize the data as we continue to enhance the health and safety of Bermuda’s residents.”