Addiction in Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands
Charlotte Amalie, located on the south shore of the island of St. Thomas, is the capital and largest city in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Charlotte Amalie stretches about 1.5 miles around the St. Thomas Harbor and is the border entry point for the island. Due to its central location, the city has become a prominent arrival zone for illicit drugs transported from South America, particularly cocaine and heroin that are destined for the continental United States.
Charlotte Amalie: A Prominent Hub for Drug Trafficking
In addition to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands are the southernmost point of entry into the United States for people and goods. Shipping from the islands to other parts of the country is considered to be coastwide trade, and it is very challenging for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to regulate or inspect all cargo that is routinely shipped in and out of the territory. The unique geography of the Virgin Islands is comprised of 233 miles of coastline and over 50 small islets and cays, which greatly increases the difficulty of monitoring traffic. Consequently, the region has become a convenient transshipment and consolidation point for drug traffickers who smuggle South American cocaine and heroin into the continental United States.
In recent years, the amount of drug smuggling in the area has increased as drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) in Columbia and Venezuela have shifted their air transportation of cocaine from the Dominican Republic to the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas is the prime location for such activity, as it has extremely high tourism and traffic rates. On average, about 1.5 million cruise ship passengers visit the island per year. Additionally, Charlotte Amalie is home to a seaplane wharf in the inner harbor, providing easy transshipment access. The vast quantity of goods and people shipped through the region every year provides drug traffickers with ample opportunity to smuggle illicit drugs into, through, and from the area. Customs and Border Agent patrols have been increased both on the land of St. Thomas and on the surrounding sea as small boat and yacht traffic has increased during recent years. These agents have helped to intercept shipments of cocaine from Venezuela to the Dominican Republic as part of Operation Broken Bridge to prevent their importation into the Virgin Islands.
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Cocaine Abuse and HIV Rates
The trafficking and abuse of cocaine into and through the U.S. Virgin Islands is the greatest drug threat to the region. Excluding alcohol, crack cocaine is the most commonly abused substance on the island of St. Thomas. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, a large portion of the South American cocaine that is transported into Charlotte Amalie is left in the city and distributed locally. Crack cocaine can be smoked and injected intravenously, and many chronic drug users have begun to prefer the injection mode of administration due to the fact that it increases the intensity and duration of a crack high. Many officials are attributing the injection of the drug to the high rates of HIV in the Caribbean region, as drug use increases the risk of unprotected sex and sharing needles which spreads the disease.
Drug use and commercial sex work each play a role in the spread of HIV in the Virgin Islands. Drug using sex workers reported a significantly greater number of past-month sexual partners than alcohol-only and non-drug users. Additionally, crack cocaine users were significantly more likely to report unprotected sexual activity, client violence, and sexually transmitted infections as well. The intersection of unprotected sexual activity with multiple partners and the sharing of needles suggests that crack cocaine use plays an important role in driving the growing heterosexual HIV epidemic in the Virgin Islands.
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Getting Treatment in Charlotte Amalie
Whether you are looking for treatment for alcohol or illicit drug use, addiction does not have to control your life. There are multiple resources in both the Virgin Islands and the U.S. Mainland to help those struggling with addiction. If you or a loved one is in dire need of healing from substance abuse in the Charlotte Amalie area, don’t wait any longer; talk to a dedicated treatment professional that can help you explore your options.