Addiction in Christiansted, U.S. Virgin Islands
Christiansted is the largest town of St. Croix, one of the main islands composing the United States Virgin Islands. Located on St. Croix’s northern shore, Christiansted is home to picturesque beaches and boasts beautiful “African-Danish” architecture. Unfortunately, the Caribbean town is struggling with high rates of substance abuse and drug trafficking, particularly cocaine.
Drug Trafficking in Christiansted
Due to the U.S. Virgin Islands’ trans-Atlantic location, Christiansted is a popular transshipment point for illicit drugs that are smuggled into the U.S. mainland. Both the American territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are situated between the United States mainland and South American drug source countries such as Columbia and Peru, making them ideal gateways for the distribution of cocaine and other narcotics. In 2013, 16% of the United States’ cocaine imports came through the Caribbean-South Florida Route by way of the Virgin Islands. Drugs are commonly smuggled into Christiansted by drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and criminal groups via commercial and private maritime vessels, commercial and private aircraft, and package delivery services. Large drug shipments are then offloaded, repackaged, and stored in secluded areas until they are distributed locally or transported to the U.S. mainland.
As trafficking has become more prominent on the islands, Christiansted authorities have teamed up with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in an attempt to increase drug seizures and regulate the flow of narcotics in and out of the territory.
Through these arrests and seizures we are sending a clear message that the U.S. Virgin Islands will not be a safe haven for criminals looking to ship drugs into USVI and Puerto Rico. HSI and its federal and local partners are committed to working together to stop the flow of illegal narcotics into the USVI and Puerto Rico.
The main goal of these joint efforts is to protect the citizens of the Virgin Islands from drug smugglers looking to exploit the territory as a cocaine transshipment point. According to law enforcement officials, retail drug distributors on the islands are heavily armed and commit violent crimes, including homicide, to control the drug markets.
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Christiansted Cocaine Abuse and HIV Rates
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cocaine is the biggest drug threat to the U.S. Virgin Islands. As trafficking has become more prominent, the local use of cocaine on the island of St. Croix has increased double-fold, severely affecting the health of the island’s residents. Crack cocaine is the most commonly abused drug in St. Croix and is reported to be most negatively affecting the female population.
In a recent study, it was discovered that St. Croix women that reported crack cocaine use also reported a significantly higher number of sexual partners in the past month and significantly more occasions of unprotected vaginal sexual contact. Rates of self-reported HIV infection were also elevated among these St. Croix women. Drug intoxication and addiction can compromise judgment and decision-making and potentially lead to risky sexual behavior, including trading sex for drugs, and needle sharing. This increases a crack cocaine user’s risk for contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV). Officials attribute this alarming trend to the precarious socio-economic status of women on the island and their lack of access to legitimate income-generating activities, driving them into engage in “survival sex” to support themselves and their drug needs. In addition to the dangers of trafficking, cocaine abuse has a large and emerging role in the spread of HIV in St. Croix, particularly among women.
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The Virgin Islands are home to a number of treatment facilities that offer services to combat substance abuse; however, it may be a good option to travel for rehab. If you’re someone that is struggling with a drug or alcohol misuse problem in Christiansted, know that you are not alone and that there are options out there. Contact a dedicated treatment provider today to find the best treatment program for your individual needs.