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Drug Abuse in the Bahamas

  • Nelson Clarke (a1) and Michael Neville (a1)
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The Bahamas is a group of islands, just off the coast of Florida, extending southwards to near the island of Hispaniola. There are approximately 25 inhabited islands and numerous small islands and cays that are uninhabited. The population of the Bahamas is approximately 230–240,000. A census taken in 1980 showed that approximately 65% of the population is aged between 15–45 years. The major industries lie in tourism and off-shore banking. The Bahamas has not always had a drug problem; the diagnostic records at the mental hospital, Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, reveal that in the sixties drug-related admissions were negligible. In the early seventies, however, there was a rapid increase in cannabis use and at the same time the number of drug-related admissions increased. The patients were mainly admitted in acutely disturbed states which were thought to be drug psychoses caused by cannabis inhalation. There do not seem to have been many patients requesting help to stop using cannabis, and generally there has been no significant change in this pattern. The major difference is the vast increase in the quantities smoked by an individual user. In the mid-seventies, the pattern of drug use began to change in that more patients were using a number of drugs at the same time. Methaqualone enjoyed a period of popularity and was known on the street as Quaaludes, Mx or Disco Biscuit. The drug's ability to potentiate the action of alcohol made it both dangerous and alluring, as it was possible to get ‘stoned’ almost immediately for the price of only one drink and one pill. It was about the same time in the mid-seventies that cocaine hydrochloride began to arrive on the market in increasing quantities and start gaining in popularity. The major problems at that time were associated with drug-induced psychoses, acute intoxications and occasions of violent bizarre behaviour due to the disinhibition and release of aggression caused by these drugs. One drug addict from this era, interviewed in the prison, said that a good night out was to smoke some grass, drink a Guinness stout, take a quaalude and then snort some cocaine. There is really no literature as to what effect these combinations may have on the brain. It is of interest however that very few patients were presenting for treatment of addiction, though by the late seventies a trickle had begun to come forward. Cocaine was not that plentiful and was being used by snorting, i.e. the inhalation of the finely ground white powder into the nostrils. A less popular method of use of cocaine at that time was smoking the finely ground powder as a constituent of a tobacco cigarette or mixed into the contents of a marijuana cigarette. The quantities of cocaine available on the Bahamian street market at that time were small.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 0140-0789
  • EISSN: 2514-9954
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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Drug Abuse in the Bahamas

  • Nelson Clarke (a1) and Michael Neville (a1)
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