Pubdate: Fri, 20 May 2005
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2005 The Gleaner Company Limited
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


TWO LOCAL substance abuse treatment officials are calling for the
establishment of a local ganja research academy and more comprehensive
treatment programmes for persons, especially adolescents, who are
battling addiction.

The call comes against the background of the continuing debate on the
decriminalisation of ganja.

Speaking at Wednesday's Editors' Forum on the Ganja Debate, Dr.
Winston De La Haye, head of the detoxification unit at the University
Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) said scarce resources means that
only 20 per cent of the 190,000 local persons who need treatment are
receiving it.

"... Hand in hand with decriminalisation, we clearly need to be
beefing up our services in order to offer treatment to individuals who
are already affected but who we are not able to treat because of the
small number of beds. I have only eight beds ... Right now, today, we
are not offering treatment as needed," Dr. De La Haye said, during the
forum, which was held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston.

He said there was a strong need for more treatment facilities because
data show addictions are widespread and are growing among minors.

He said some adolescents had a high possibility of being exposed to
and later abusing drugs.

"In terms of marijuana use, adolescents are potentially five times
more likely to be exposed to crack cocaine. Having been exposed, the
potential to use crack cocaine as a result of the marijuana use is 15
times increased," he said, quoting United States data.

For her part, Sonita Abrahams, executive director of Reaching
Individuals Through Skills and Education (RISE, formerly Addiction
Alert), pointed to the dangers of ganja use, among them increased risk
of mental health problems. She said ganja, because of its properties,
should be further researched.

"I believe that the herb does have medicinal values and I do endorse
the setting up of a cannabis research academy," she said, also
advocating rehabilitation, counselling and community service as
alternatives to jail sentences for persons who use small amounts of
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