Jamaica gets Funding for Drug Prevalence Survey

Photo: JIS Photographer Research Analyst at the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), Uki Atkinson.

Story Highlights

  • Jamaica is one of three Caribbean countries to receive funding from the Organization of American States (OAS), to conduct a National Drug Prevalence Survey.
  • The OAS has been working closely with the NCDA for years on various research efforts, including the National Secondary School Survey, the Prison Survey and the Drug Treatment Standardized data collection system.
  • The study also noted that the abuse of legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, was a major contributor to the overall abuse prevalence in Jamaica.

Jamaica is one of three Caribbean countries to receive funding from the Organization of American States (OAS), to conduct a National Drug Prevalence Survey.

The survey seeks to determine the extent of drug use among Jamaicans,  aged 12 to 65 years, with a particular focus on marijuana use and attitudes toward recent legislative changes.

Research Analyst at the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), Uki Atkinson, told JIS News that Jamaica, being the first country in the region to make these legislative changes, is poised to serve as a benchmark for neighbouring countries that may be considering similar legislative measures.

“In light of recent efforts to decriminalize marijuana and strong advocacy for its legalisation, this is an opportune time to gather information relating to consumption patterns, perception of harm, use of edibles and drinkables for recreational purposes. In addition, we want to know people’s attitude towards ganja,” Mrs. Atkinson outlined.

The OAS has been working closely with the NCDA for years on various research efforts, including the National Secondary School Survey, the Prison Survey and the Drug Treatment Standardized data collection system.

The Research Analyst noted that a survey of this nature has been on the NCDA’s list of priority research efforts for many years, as the last one was conducted 15 years ago.

“Surveys like this are usually expensive and countries implement them every four to five years. Many Caribbean countries would love to be able to conduct this research, but lack the resources to do so. We are appreciative for the opportunity to receive funding for this survey,” Mrs. Atkinson told JIS News.

“This effort would not have been possible without our key partner, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission and more specifically the section that coordinates much of the research in this region, the Inter-American Observatory on Drugs,” she added.

The survey, she said, will help to further NCDA’s mandate which includes informing policymakers, key stakeholders and the general public about substances and their effects as well as developing and implementing evidence-based prevention and treatment programmes for individuals, schools, communities and workplaces.

The Council began data collection today (April 19) and the process is scheduled to last eight to 10 weeks. A pilot was done a few weeks prior to the official survey.

The other two countries selected by the OAS to receive funding for the National Drug Prevalence Survey are Guyana and Bahamas.

At the time of the 2001 National Household Survey (NHS) in Jamaica, there were an estimated 180,000 persons with drug misuse problems. The survey found that 9 per cent of the population used marijuana and that there was uncertainty about its associated health risks.

The study also noted that the abuse of legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, was a major contributor to the overall abuse prevalence in Jamaica.

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