Plans to test waste water for drugs

Local researchers are hoping to test partygoers’ waste water to discover how many new psychoactive substances are being used in Barbados.

And if research officer with the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) Laura Foster has her way, that testing could be done during the Crop Over Festival.

“When we consider our discoveries with similar discoveries across the Caribbean and the proliferation of new psychoactive substances on the international market, it is clear we need to know the current state of psychoactive substances in Barbados and we need to know it urgently.

“This will be key to designing and implementing appropriate responses to address the emergence of these substances. Some of the areas that we need to know about include the substances that are available and in use and how or where they are obtained, the populations most likely to use them and the methods of use,” Foster said.

She made those comments last Wednesday as she released the findings from the 2022 Barbados Drug Information Network Report (BARDIN) at NCSA’s Pine Road, St Michael office.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Yvette Goddard, chairman of the NCSA Hadford Howell, and manager of the NCSA, Betty Hunte, also spoke during the event.

While marijuana remained one of the most prevalent substances used in the country, she noted that new psychoactive substances appeared to be emerging more regularly.

She said that a study which will be carried out here, Jamaica and Trinidad in a few months, would be critical to uncovering more about the emerging substances. She said the findings would help shape policies and programmes to tackle the issue.

 “Research will be key for us to gain this understanding and there is a project in the planning stages being funded by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission and it’s going to focus on trafficking, sale, distribution and use of new psychoactive substances and other emerging drugs.

“It will be using a qualitative approach with heavy reliance on interviews . . . going to key informants, people who have inside knowledge be it professionals or potential users. We are using a well-rounded approach. But I am suggesting that we also buttress it with a wastewater analysis. This particular type of study tests the waste waters of a country to estimate community use of certain drugs. It does this by testing the water and metabolites of drugs.

“One common approach to studies of this nature is to conduct them at parties and festivals because the likelihood for drug use is higher in situations like these, so I am recommending that the study be conducted during Crop Over. We go to the fetes and we test the waste water from the chemical toilets. That way we can have an idea of what substances are being used here,” Foster said.

Chair of the projects, outreach and fundraising subcommittee with the NCSA’s board of directors Dr Ronald Chase said wastewater testing was not a novel procedure, and stressed that they were not seeking to falsify the results.

“Wastewater testing is not new. We mentioned party events, but it can also be at sewage points in neighbourhoods. The samples are analysed for not only the presence but the quantity of certain drugs. 

“It’s not to falsify or indicate anything. . . during parties and festivals persons are more likely to use whatever they want to be in the right mood to party,” he said.

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