Pubdate: Thu, 12 Feb 2009
Source: Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2009 The Jamaica Observer Ltd,
Author: Taneisha Lewis
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


OF the 890 calls Rise Life Management Services - one  the island's 
drug treatment facilities - received for  help in 2008, the majority 
came from people looking to  beat their marijuana addiction.

Furthermore, Sonita Abrahams, Rise Life's executive  director, said 
the percentage of calls for problems  associated with marijuana over 
the past four years is  also on the rise, jumping from 39 per cent in 
2005 to  43 per cent in 2008.

"People say marijuana is harmless, but if you talk to  any doctor who 
works in mental institutions, they will  tell you that a large 
percentage of the people come in  with marijuana induced psychosis," 
Abrahams said.

The calls come in to RISE's 'Telephone Lifeline' which  is equipped 
with trained counsellors who advise the  callers and make the 
necessary referrals.

When it comes to the reason the calls have increased,  Everton Evlyn, 
a lifeline counsellor told the Observer  that he has seen an increase 
in the number of teenagers  who use and misuse marijuana.

"We have noticed a big increase in the number of  teenagers using 
ganja and it could be from the mental  health issues associated with 
marijuana misuse [why  more teens are calling for help]," he said.

"Ganja is also associated with gangs and we have seen  that the 
increase [in calls to the life line] in  predominantly from high 
school students. A big reason  is the culture in Jamaica's inner city 
communities  where ganja is accepted by adults and is seen as an 
everyday thing. For them ganja is a wisdom drug that  helps them to 
be more enlightened. Some of them have  low self-esteem and so they 
have to do this to be  accepted by their peer group."

Information from RISE shows that the short-term effects  of marijuana 
use include problems with memory and  learning, distorted perception, 
difficulty in thinking  and problem solving, loss of co-ordination, 
increased  heart rate and anxiety.

And while the 10-19 age group has the third highest  number of calls, 
RISE's data shows that over the past  two years, however, this group 
has increased to 26 per  cent, just one percentage point behind the 
36-50 age  group which has the second highest number of calls. 
At  the top of the list, with the highest number of calls,  is the 
20-35 age group with percentages ranging from 48  per cent in 2005, 
46 per cent in 2006, 40 per cent in  2007 and 44 per cent in 2008.

Turning to male/female ratio, the data showed that 85  per cent of 
callers were male, and 15 per cent females.

Meantime, alcohol comes in second on the list of  addictions which 
persons seek help for, ranging from  between 22 and 25 per cent of 
the calls over the past  four years. Abrahams said the calls have 
remained fairly stable over the four-year period. Crack 
cocaine,  which is also fairly stable, is next on the list 
with  between 12 and 14 per cent of the calls, followed by  gambling, 
which ranges from eight to 14 per cent and  tobacco slowly trending 
down from eight to six per cent  over the same period.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom