SPADAI – Working towards addressing the problems of Drug Abuse on the Island

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

The tiny fishing village of San Pedro has seen much growth since it became a town in 1984. With this growth came a booming economy, the advent of the Tourism Industry and an increase in the population to an estimated 20,000.
Along with these advances, of which many have proven to be quite positive, it is expected that there come some negatives. One of the most obvious or more visible, would be that of alcohol abuse here on the island. San Pedro is home to dozens of restaurants, bars, night clubs and stores – all licensed to sell alcohol.

Brochures and pamphlets on alcohol and drug abuse

With all these establishments catering to the needs of both visitors and residents alike, one would expect that there would be some sort of system in place that would combat the irrefutable effects of substance abuse on the island. As we walk around town, the effect of alcohol abuse is apparent in the individuals we see who are publically intoxicated on the streets on a daily basis. With many families torn by the addiction of a loved one, this substance has now managed to seep its way through the school systems and has reached our children, threatening to destroy their very future.
This year, San Pedro High School (SPHS) took a very brave initiative, hosting their first ever Drug Awareness week. As part of that week, the San Pedro Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (SPADAI) was invited to hold a presentation at the school on Friday December 7th. Held at the end of the week, the day-long drug fair consisted of presentations that were led by recovered drug addicts, members of the Anti Drug Unit (ADU) and representatives from the various groups fighting to combat drug abuse on the island.

SPADAI at San Pedro High School’s drug fair

Freddie Gonzalez – Vice Chair of SPADAI spoke to The San Pedro Sun about their cause and their participation in SPHS’s Drug Awareness Week. “Our organization came into play when we couldn’t figure out how to help these young individuals who came to the traditional Alcohol Anonymous (AA) meetings.We had a person that came to us that really needed help, however we didn’t have the facilities to provide the care required. This is where SPADAI was born.”
The group is in the process of acquiring funding for a physical facility to be built on a plot of land south of town, towards the San Pedro Marina. The facility will provide rehabilitation services for individuals suffering from the various types of addictions on the island as well as serve as a “Go To” place for abused mothers as well as youth facing trials.
According to Gonzalez, once they were contacted to make a presentation at the High School, they decided to do some research on the impact of alcohol and drug abuse in the school system. He admits that their findings were alarming. “After our initial presentation at the school we decided to take a closer look at what the students are doing in relation to substance abuse. We were invited to talk about alcohol and drugs at the schools. A teacher came to us and we went to the schools. When we went there, we used a couple of pamphlets that we had and we gave it to the kids. From there our little research started. And with the response that we got from them, we noticed that a lot of kids and their parents are consuming alcohol. Further research also showed us that here in San Pedro, on the school grounds, 70% of the students are using alcohol.”
With the help of Kristina Romero and the National Drug Abuse Control Council (NDACC)the committee has conducted further research into the drug usage situation with even more alarming findings. According to Gonzalez, they have discovered that at a very early stage, (First Form/Year One) kids have reported using cocaine,ecstasy and valium. He informed that one student went as far as confessing to stealing his mother’s jewelry to pay for his habit while othersreported pooling resources to be able to purchase the drug. Sadly, the reason for continued use, according to the surveys was; “we tried it and we liked it.”
With these findings, drug abuse is without a doubt at the forefront. It is obviously not just a problem belonging to ‘others’. It has reached home. SPADAI, along with NDACC, is tackling this situation head on – now it lies on the community as a whole to come onboard to fight this problem that is seemingly out of control. SPADAI’s board members include: Saul Nuñez, Katrina Spickard, Wally Nuñez, Armando and Lemus along with many auxiliary board members. In closing, Gonzalez assured, “We are working with other support groups that we have here on the island, as well as a fundraising committee. I would like to tell the residents of San Pedro that if you or your kids feel in need of help, don’t feel afraid to reach out. This program is very confidential and we are willing to work with anyone that needs help.”Services offered by both NDACC and SPADAI are completely free and confidential. For more information on SPADAI and their services call 604-0949.

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