JIS News

The National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) is reporting an increase in the number of adolescent female drug abusers.
A National School Survey, which was conducted in 2006 among students in grades 8, 10 and 11, found that the gap between the number of adolescent male and female drug abusers is narrowing.
“The gender gap, where drug use is concerned, is narrowing,” said Executive Director of the NCDA, Michael Tucker at a recent JIS Think Tank. He noted that “historically, we would have a male-female ratio of 2:1 where drug usage is concerned, but that is narrowing significantly.”
Some 5,000 students between the ages of 11 to19 from 70 high schools across the island participated in the survey.
According to Mr. Tucker, the research found that peer pressure was the major reason for using drugs, however, coping with stress and relaxation were also indicated as some of the other emerging factors.
“Our young people are under significant stress at home and at school because of various reasons such as the lack of parental support and the need to perform academically,” he told JIS News.
In the meantime, Director of Information and Research at the NCDA, Ellen Campbell Grizzle, said that with research showing that more women are using drugs, prevention planners will have to change their strategy.
“As prevention planners, we relied on women to support us in our efforts traditionally, but now we will have to rethink our strategy because that support may no longer be there,” she said.
According to Mrs. Campbell Grizzle, inhalants are the main drugs used by females. “We have seen that women use inhalants more than 2:1 when compared with men among the youth population that we studied,” she said, noting that “they experiment with whiteouts, acetone in nail polish remover, floor polish, gasoline and other substances, which at room temperature, give off an odour that is intoxicating.”
These chemicals, she pointed out, are inexpensive and insidious, and are not recognized as drugs. “There are obvious signs and symptoms of inhalant use. We have a library at the Council where we have these on display and parents need to come and actually see some of the substances so that they can know what they look like when they see them at home. Many parents are in the dark; they don’t know what they look like,” she stated.
In addition to the use of inhalants, Mrs. Campbell Grizzle told JIS News that the responsiveness of females to marketing campaigns by manufacturers of legal drugs, such as alcohol and cigarettes, is alarming. “The advertisements are portraying a lot of young women and enticing and seducing them into tobacco and alcohol use,” she pointed out.
In addressing the problem, the Director of Information said that prevention planners need to be cognizant of certain underlying gender issues. “We need to look at issues such as if a male partner offers his female partner a drug, why that female would not want to say no, so there are serious issues of power and relationships that needs to be dealt with,” she said.
“However, interestingly, the young men are telling us that the young women like when they use certain drugs because it makes then ‘hype’,” she pointed out.
Mrs. Campbell Grizzle told JIS News that the NCDA is in the process of updating its prevention programmes to address some of the issues that are emerging from the studies that are being conducted.