Anti-drug initiatives and programmes designed to protect children are cost effective in the long term, according to the Minister of Social Development and Sport.
Zane DeSilva said: “US data tells us that for every $1 spent on prevention, education and programmes, $18 is saved that would have been spent on dealing with the ill effects that drug abuse has on both the individual and our society.”
Mr DeSilva, Minster of Social Development and Sport, was speaking as part of a media event to kick off Pride Bermuda’s annual Red Ribbon Week. The programme, now in its 20th year, features events and initiatives designed to spread the message of keeping youth away from drugs and alcohol.
According to Mr DeSilva, the 2016 Bermuda Drug Information Network report revealed that 71 per cent of surveyed students in M2 to S4 reported use of “at least one drug in their lifetime”.
Thirteen per cent of respondents said they had been in a car with driven by an impaired driver, the study also found.
Mr DeSilva said that studies showed that evidence-based programmes and services, like those provided by Pride, can help keep youth from turning to drugs and antisocial behaviour.
“We have to reach and teach our children at a young age so that they are not pressured or influenced into engaging in drug and alcohol abuse,” he said.
He added: “Young people are our most valuable resource and as a community, we must protect them.
“Investment in the early development of our children who are affected by the breakdown of the family structure as a result of substance abuse is of urgent social importance to this community.”
Parents in particular, Mr DeSilva said, must talk with their children about drugs and alcohol.
“I encourage all of us to make talking about drugs a part of our general health and safety conversations with our children,” he said.
Colin Anderson, vice chair of Pride Bermuda, said that the campaign is an opportunity for “communities island wide to unify and take a stand” against drugs.
Ben Smith, shadow minster, said that he was proud to be part of the initiative.
He added: “Everyone needs to pull together to show that as a community we believe that this initiative is important.
“If we show it as a community, the youth will believe it, and then our future will be brighter.”
The year’s Red Ribbon Week runs from October 16 to 22. Activities this week include a youth meet and greet with members of the public on Tuesday and a fun fair event taking place on City Hall lawn on Friday.