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JIS News

Many people use drugs to escape physical and emotional discomfort, but while the use of drugs might offer short term relief, sooner or later it begins to affect and control an individual’s life in a negative way.
“Substance abuse not only affects your health, it also affects people’s ability to produce, because somebody who is abusing drugs they do not focus, they are not dependable,” Executive Director of the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), Mr. Michael Tucker tells JIS News.
It is also a security problem, because people who use drugs steal to support the habit and those mini confrontations (lead to) drug related killings that occur in any environment,” Executive Director of the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), Mr. Tucker reveals.
He explains that some of the varying reasons for drug use among young people in Jamaica include peer pressure, curiosity and stress-related matters.
“Many adults and caregivers do not understand the significant pressure that young people are under. Often the young people aren’t given the type of support, parental or other support, that they need, so they are often left to fend for themselves and they are not at the point where their coping skills are fully developed and may turn to drugs,” Mr. Tucker states.
“And of course the aspect of peer pressure, where they want to belong because it looks attractive, it looks sexier to smoke and drink and that is how it is portrayed in most of the advertisements. We actually see people having a good time, but of course mixed in there you have alcohol and you have cigarettes,” he adds.
Some of the most popular drugs in Jamaica include alcohol, amphetamines, caffeine, cocaine, ecstasy, inhalants, marijuana, steroids and tobacco. A worrying trend, however, is the increased usage of heroin.
“Up to a few years ago, heroin was primarily injectable and our culture here is not a culture of injecting drugs. However, we now have smokeable heroin, just like how you have cocaine that is smokeable. Just like how they mix the crack cocaine with the ganja and give people, they will mix the heroin with the ganja and eventually people will get a heroin habit,” Mr Tucker says.
He adds that deportees, coming back into Jamaica, are also bringing back their drug using habits.
“So a lot of people are coming back into our system and have brought back their heroin use or practices here, and have introduced it to people they have come in contact with. Heroin is a serious drug, and it’s the type of drug that causes more devastation than crack cocaine,” the Executive Director notes.
“We have to be proactive and we have to be aware of all these negative consequences that a heroin using population can cause. Whereas some people can use crack cocaine for awhile, and provided they have the type of resources can function, not normally, but can still work to a point, heroin is a totally different ball game; it is serious problems,” he adds.
In the meantime, Mr. Tucker is encouraging parents to be more aware of their children’s surroundings.
“A lot of them are in denial, and a lot of them are not willing to believe that there is always an exposure opportunity for their children, whenever they are out of their sight. In fact, it is well known that drugs are sold within the school environment or at the school gate,” Mr Tucker says.
He adds that parents should never assume that their children do not get the opportunity to use drugs, or are not really approached to buy drugs.
Mr. Tucker also states that parents need to be aware of the negative consequences of drug abuse, so that they will be able to speak to their children intelligently about drugs and what effects a drug can have on an individual.
“No scare tactics, you just have to speak to them, because children can check for themselves on the internet and find out what exactly is what. Parents have to be involved in their children’s lives, as its not adequate enough to just give your children money and drop them off at the mall and leave them for five or six hours. The drug dealer is in that environment, because they are aware that the children are unsupervised and they have money and, therefore, they are potential targets,” the Executive Director states.
Mr. Tucker also encourages parents to get their children involved in recreational activities that will reinforce positive values and attitudes. He notes that having family time with children is important.
“We know that parents are under stress and a lot of them are trying their best to make ends meet, but there must be a time at which you can have time with your children to talk about what is happening. A lot of parents are unaware of what is happening in their children’s lives,” Mr. Tucker states.
“We all know that parenting is one of the most difficult jobs anybody will ever have. So you need to always keep yourself abreast as to what is happening, so you can communicate effectively about all these things. Also, know about the new drugs and the new trends, and you can speak to us at the NCDA, plus we have an information centre there where parents can get valuable information,” he adds.
In terms of future plans for the NCDA, Mr. Tucker notes that the agency will be seeking to do more for youths at risk, and children in general, who are within the school system.
“We need to do much more with young people. It is well known that young people start to experiment with drugs between the ages of 10 and 13 years, and we have to get to them early,” the Executive Director says.
He adds that the agency is planning to focus more on women, as research is showing that more young women are experimenting with both legal and illegal drugs. Mr. Tucker says that the NCDA will be looking at increasing the number of persons able to receive treatment from a total of 4,000 to 8,000.
“We also need to work more with the productive sector and get more wellness programmes and prevention programmes in there, so that they have a drug-free workforce and have a focus in assisting people that may need treatment in their environment, instead of dismissing them or ignoring it. We need to confront it and treat it,” Mr. Tucker says.
The NCDA is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Health. The Council is mandated to: review and monitor conditions in the country with respect to drugs which are being, or which appear likely to be misused with harmful effects sufficient to continue a social problem; recommend to the Prime Minister measures which should be taken to prevent the misuse of such drugs, or social problems connected with the misuse of such drugs; and consider and advise on matters referred to it concerning drug use and abuse.
If you know any person suffering from drug abuse and desires assistance you may call the NCDA at 926-9000-2 or call its toll-free line at 1-888-991-4244.