The Ministry of National Security, through the Department for National Drug Control, has completed the fifth administration of a National Household Survey on Drug Consumption and Health among Bermuda’s adult residents.

This survey serves to update information collected in the last survey, which was conducted in 2009; and provides trends and information related to the drug situation in Bermuda; more specifically, that of drug consumption, risk behaviours, and provides perceptions on a range of alcohol- and marijuana-related policy items.

Patterned after national household prevalence studies conducted regionally and internationally, the survey utilised a standardised questionnaire provided to Bermuda by the Organization of American States (CICAD) and employed statistically sound methodology in the design and execution of the survey. The survey collected information from a scientifically selected, nationally representative, random sample of 1,200 adult residents in Bermuda, 16 years or older, whose participation was voluntary. Trained, experienced, and professional interviewers collected the responses to the questionnaire via telephone interviews over the period of November 4th – 20th 2013.

The results of this survey showed: 

• The use of both legal and illegal substances have marginally declined amongst Bermuda’s residents over the past four (4) years.

• Alcohol remained the legal substance of choice among Bermuda’s adults, while marijuana remained the most commonly used illegal drug.

• Of all illicit drugs on the market marijuana remained the most popular drug being offered to buy or use in Bermuda and is still the easiest drug to obtain.

• Females had a greater tendency to use legal drugs (alcohol, cigarettes, and inhalants), while males were more likely to engage in illegal drug use, such as marijuana, hash, cocaine.

• Whites represented the largest proportion of current users of alcohol; drug use was most prevalent among participants who finished only a secondary-level education; married people drank the most; and substance use was most prevalent among persons working over 40 hours per week.

• Age of first use of the top three substances (alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana) increased between 2009 and 2013. In other words, experimentation is starting at an older age.

• There was a higher tendency for persons to drink alcohol if they have friends or family members who get drunk.

• A significant proportion of the respondents (42.4%) had friends or family members who take illicit drug(s).

• Most drinking was reported to occur on the weekends.

• Males mainly drank beverages with low alcoholic content and females mainly drank beverages of medium alcohol content.

• Binge drinking (having five or more drinks at once) was more prevalent among males.

• One in 10 persons was drunk on at least one day in the past month.

• Drinking alcoholic beverages sometimes, doing so often, and becoming drunk were perceived to be the most harmful of the risky behaviours – even more so than smoking marijuana often.

• Almost half of the respondents (49.2%) said that they had never or not at all observed the legally required health caution of the Alcohol Advertisement Act 1993, which stipulates that alcohol advertisements should be accompanied by the warning “Excessive alcohol consumption may be harmful to your health”.

• A large proportion (96.5%) of respondents knew the minimum drinking age in Bermuda to be 18 years or older.

• More than two-thirds or 68.4% of the survey respondents admitted to being in favour of laws preventing persons from serving alcohol to minors in their homes or on their premises.

• The majority of respondents (83.1%) were in favor of roadside sobriety checkpoints. However, only 25.7% of the respondents said they were in favour of lowering the blood alcohol legal limit from 0.08 to 0.01.

• Most surveyed residents (48.6%) were in favour of decriminalisation of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, while 41.3% were not in favour of decriminalisation, and 9.4% said they did not know or did not care; despite the fact that only 18.4% of participants were curious to try an illegal drug and 91.0% said they would not try it if given the opportunity. 

Substance use remains a complex phenomenom that presents unique and costly consequences to society. Decision makers require better data; good policies and programmes require good analysis. No single measurement can reflect the multifaceted nature of problems associated with substance misuse but basic indicators are needed for planning and action. All estimates are, in some ways, incomplete; but an incomplete estimate used well is better than using unfounded perceptions or none at all.

Policy makers will continue to face difficult policy choices when tackling issues related to legal substances, illicit drugs, and crime, while ensuring public safety. The Report of the 2013 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health, in both substance and form, represents an important step forward in addressing the challenges presented to us. This report, along with other publications of the Department for National Drug Control, provides a clear body of evidence that speaks to the drug situation in Bermuda. I invite you to review the information in this report, ask questions and, most of all support us as we continue to enhance the health and safety of Bermuda’s residents.

The 2013 National Household Survey report will be available on the Department for National Drug Control’s website www.dndc.gov.bm or you may contact the DNDC at 294-9702 for more information.