By Latrishka Thomas
A certified specialist in drug abuse and treatment diagnosis has suggested that too much attention is being paid to one specific drug, while others are seeping into the local culture.
Dr. Jerry Simon, during an OBSERVER media interview, said that while the public disputes the decriminalization or legalization of stipulated amounts of marijuana, there are more dangerous drugs that are being prescribed to residents on a daily basis.
“We are getting opioid medication into Antigua and opioids, as we know, kill a hundred people in the United States each day… we still have opioids being prescribed. We know that valium does a lot of damage, especially in our elderly and even in our young people. We have a lot of young people using valium and, because it’s maybe not in our face like marijuana, you don’t necessarily hear the discussions about it,” Dr. Simon said.
“So, I’m just saying, the same way we treat other drugs or other substances, we need to kind of treat marijuana in that way rather than get all gung-ho in one camp or another — the legalization camp or the non-legalization camp — I think we should look at it as a substance and find the best way to use it in a positive way and hopefully mitigate some of the negative effects.”
According to Simon, alcohol use is even more prevalent than cannabis, especially among females but not much scrutiny is being given to this problem.
The former Medical Director at Crossroads Centre is encouraging a shift in conversation or focus from the increase in drug use, to education on drug use, as well as getting addiction treatment facilities up to par.
“The biggest concern I had is the need for us to get our addiction treatment in proper order with or without that law. I know people are going and making a lot of noise about it — quite rightly so in some circles; I don’t have an issue with that.
“However, we have to recognize in our society there have been a lot of people using marijuana for many years. Some people use it without any particular detriment and some use it to their detriment so I think the discussion has to be where our treatment and education system is in terms of educating people on the effects of drug use. My bigger issue — are those mechanisms up to par.”
As has beendone with other drugs, Dr. Simon recommends that the relevant authorities extract the good effects of marijuana and educate the public in that regard.
“I do agree to some extent with the law, the way it is now in terms of the decriminalization of cannabis. I would hate to find that a young man [or young woman] who uses the drug for whatever reason becomes a part of the criminal justice system…where for life they are branded as criminals, can’t get a job in our small society over the use of a drug when we have people using all sorts of other drugs.
“I don’t necessarily think marijuana is a bad thing. I think it is a plant like any other that has good effects and bad effects. It is a matter of educating ourselves so that we can benefit from the good effects and keep away from the bad ones,” the drug specialist added.