Pubdate: Wed, 14 May 2014
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2014 The Gleaner Company Limited


In a recent National Secondary School Survey of 3,365 students across 
38 schools from 11 parishes, it was revealed that alcohol, 
cigarettes, marijuana, and solvents/inhalants continue to be the 
substances most commonly abused by students in Jamaica, which could 
lead to serious health issues down the road.

The survey showed that students in the 17-year-old age group were 
widely abusing alcohol, while those in the 15-16-year-old age group 
were heavily using cigarettes and marijuana.

The survey also noted that 43.2 per cent of the respondents reported 
that marijuana was the easiest illicit drug to access; 5.5 per cent 
felt that cocaine was easy to access; 4.5 per cent felt that ecstasy 
was easily accessible; and significantly more males than females 
reported greater accessibility to crack, ecstasy and heroin.

"When we look at prevalence, alcohol is the drug that is most 
frequently used by our adolescents for a (span) of one year and one 
month. Approximately two thirds of the sample reported use of 44 per 
cent for one year, and 33 per cent for one month," research analyst 
at the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), Uki Atkinson, said, 
following last week's release of the findings.

The report also showed that there have been marginal decreases in 
alcohol and marijuana use over the past six years.

Of those who reported using alcohol, there was a prevalence ratio of 
one in five students who used alcohol, being at risk for alcohol abuse.

This was similar among those who reported using marijuana, where 
there was also a one in five risk for marijuana abuse among students 
in this group.

"(In terms of) Prevalence of alcoholic drinks by gender, what we are 
seeing is that for one month, males were significantly more likely to 
report use of alcohol. The differences weren't too significant in 
terms of the gender comparison. For marijuana use, we are seeing 
significant differences, and this has remained standard since the 
last survey where significantly more males were likely to report 
use," Atkinson explained.

She also informed that solvent and inhalant use has gone up 
significantly in the 2013 survey.

Expressing concern over the findings of the survey conducted by NCDA, 
Michael Tucker, executive director of NCDA, noted that the agency was 
now making every effort to restrict the availability and access to 
drugs in and around school compounds.

Smoking cessation programmes

The NCDA will also seek to offer smoking cessation programmes within 
schools that need the intervention.

With plans to ensure that there were more sustainable interventions 
within the school system, he said, "We also have to ensure that when 
things like these (the survey) are done, we not only look at what is 
happening here, we look at the best practises and what has worked 
elsewhere so that we can really adopt what has been done, what has 
been successful and what has had an impact."

Adding that the parenting factor was a critical component to fighting 
this problem, Tucker noted, "We have to increase parental awareness 
about what an important role they have to play, and we have to 
include drug-related information in parenting programmes to highlight 
risk and protective factors associated with parents and drug use."

Most of the students who participated were females (57.3 per cent) 
and 42.7 per cent were males. The age range of students was between 
11 to 25 years, with the mean age being 14 years.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom