Pubdate: Fri, 20 Feb 2009
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2009 The Gleaner Company Limited


Primary-school children in some 20 inner-city schools across Kingston
and St Andrew are to be drafted into a new national programme aimed at
discouraging drug use among very young students.

The programme, which started on February 5, is geared towards
countering the growing trend of young children being lured into early
drug abuse.

The pilot programme, dubbed READ (Resistance Education Against Drugs),
will now target schoolchildren at the grade one level (ages five to
eight) and will be slotted in alongside existing Family Life and
Prevention Education Programmes in many schools.

Executive director of the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA),
Michael Tucker, said the initiative was crucial.

Prevention programmes

"The reality is that we have to start prevention programmes early. All
our surveys show that Jamaican children are experimenting earlier with
addictive substances," he said.

Statistics from the drug abuse monitoring agency have reportedly shown
a trend of early drug use, with children as young as 11 years (grade
seven) already using hard drugs.

"We are seeing the proof behind troublesome data," said Ellen Campbell
Grizzle, NCDA's information director. "Our children are exposed to
addictive substances, legal and illegal, at a very early age."

Researchers have long held that early experimentation with drugs
increases the risk of addiction among youth and reduces their chances
of recovery.

Tucker said the agency was, however, in need of support, in the face
of very limited resources.

Financial support

"We are working to reduce the number of our children who initiate drug
use at such early ages. With limited resources, we are holding the
hands of our children, teachers and parents and lifting up Jamaica,"
Tucker explained. "We need financial support to expand our programmes
and would welcome private-sector partnership."

Donations to the NCDA are tax-deductible.

Under the pilot programme, 10 students from each school and their
teachers, are invited periodically to engage in interactive workshops
designed to 'strengthen the skills of children to make correct choices
and improve their resistance to drug offers'.

The pilot ends in Drug Awareness Month, November, with more than 200
students set to benefit.
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