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Executive Director of the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), Mr. Michael Tucker, is contending that drug abuse must be treated as more than a health challenge, in order to prevent it from hindering Jamaica’s growth and development as a nation.
Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’, at the Agency’s Half-Way Tree Road head office, in St. Andrew, today (February 12), Mr. Tucker argued that “anybody who looks on substance abuse as just a health problem, is very short sighted.”
“It does affect every aspect of life and, in a real way, will prevent us moving forward as a country, if it is not dealt with speedily and properly,” he stressed.
Mr. Tucker pointed out that drug abuse impacts education, and reduces productivity, resulting in problems at the workplace among users. Additionally other occurrences, such as motor vehicle accidents, crime, and violence, “are (invariably) linked to drug abuse and drug use and, therefore, we need to deal with it properly.”
In this regard, the Executive Director underscored the need for specific focus and understanding of drug abuse, among other social issues, such as HIV/AIDS, crime and violence, “irresponsible sexual behaviour” that impact the society, particularly young people, in order to effectively address them.
“If we don’t have a specific focus on these areas and put enough resources into dealing with issues surrounding the youth, then we are facing doom and gloom,” he said.
To this end, Mr. Tucker advised that the NCDA has been working steadily over a number of years, to reduce the demand for illicit drugs.
“Over the last three years, we have moved into primary treatment, where we actually engage the substance abusers on the ground in communities, and we treat them. do counselling, do evaluations of what is happening, look at the type of drugs being used and work along with the psychiatrists or the psychologists to come up with a treatment plan for that individual, to ensure that he or she gets the necessary help,” he informed.
The Executive Director also said that a significant amount of work is being done in the school system, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, in addition to activities in the communities, to help in enhancing the coping skills of individuals, so as to either prevent them from using drugs, or reinforce protective factors that will help prevent substance abuse.
“But, there is a science to prevention. Unless there are tangible components in a prevention plan, then you have a very small possibility of it being successful. You have to look at the needs assessment, to see what exactly is needed. We have to look at the particular target group that we are doing the needs assessment for, and what really influences them. You have to have a specific, organised and ongoing programme, you can’t do things in bits and spurts. That’s why it’s important for governments to give social programmes ongoing support over prolonged periods,” he argued.
Underpinning all of this, Mr. Tucker pointed out, is the need for behaviour change that is appropriate for the different target groups.
“When we have the various advertisements on television or radio, where you have a lot of music, colour, and excitement, and then mixed into that, you have tobacco or alcohol, that is a behaviour change or behaviour influencing approach for the people who do marketing. If we do not counter this with something equivalent to assist drug users, then we are losing the battle,” Mr. Tucker contended.