Govern­ment to tackle mis­use of ganja, es­pe­cially among youth

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS -

JA­MAICA’S CHIEF med­i­cal of­fi­cer, Dr Win­ston De La Haye, is warn­ing that the use of mar­i­juana con­tin­ues to be em­bed­ded in as­pects of the Ja­maican cul­ture and re­mains the most com­monly used il­licit drug among the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, par­tic­u­larly among the youth.

Speak­ing at a spe­cial meet­ing on the ‘Pub­lic Health Di­men­sion of the World Drug Prob­lem Post-UNGASS 2016 and the Role of Sci­en­tific Ev­i­dence’ at the 55th Pan Amer­i­can Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (PAHO) Di­rect­ing Coun­cil meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton, DC, United States, last month, De La Haye out­lined some of chal­lenges be­ing faced in Ja­maica and plans to ad­dress them.

“The use of mar­i­juana con­tin­ues to be em­bed­ded in as­pects of the Ja­maican cul­ture and it re­mains the most com­monly used il­licit drug, with a life­time preva­lence of 13.5 per cent among the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion [2008 Ja­maica Health and Life­style Sur­vey] and 20.7 per cent among sec­ondary stu­dents [2013 Na­tional Sec­ondary School Sur­vey, NCDA/OAS],” De La Haye ad­vised the meet­ing of pub­lic-health spe­cial­ists.

“The av­er­age age of first use of mar­i­juana was 12 years. There is a wor­ri­some real­ity con­cern­ing the ac­cess to and avail­abil­ity of mar­i­juana among the sec­ondary-school pop­u­la­tion, with ap­prox­i­mately 50 per cent re­port­ing that it was avail­able in and around school com­pounds.” De La Haye: There was a bug, yes. And yes, the labour ward was closed, but to the best of my knowl­edge it was only for 24 hours.

He went on to ex­plain that a sig­nif­i­cantly higher pro­por­tion of stu­dents who used mar­i­juana re­ported hav­ing be­havioural and aca­demic prob­lems, as out­lined in the 2013 Na­tional Sec­ondary School Sur­vey, con­ducted by the Na­tional Coun­cil on Drug Abuse (NCDA) and the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Amer­i­can States (OAS).


The In­ter-Amer­i­can Ob­ser­va­tory on Drugs of the In­ter-Amer­i­can Drug Abuse Con­trol Com­mis­sion (CICADOAS), in its re­cent re­port on the ‘Sit­u­a­tion of Con­sump­tion of Sub­stances in the Caribbean Re­gion’, showed an in­crease in the use of cannabis by teen pop­u­la­tions, ac­com­pa­nied by a re­duc­tion in the per­cep­tion of risk con­cern­ing cannabis con­sump­tion.

The chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer said 90 per cent of the ado­les­cents seen in the NCDA’s drugtreat­ment pro­gramme are re­ferred due to prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with mar­i­juana use.

NCDA’s treat­ment re­ports re­flected a 54 per cent in­crease in stu­dents en­rolled in a ganja preven­tion pro­gramme called ‘STEP-UP’, since the de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of pos­ses­sion of two ounces or less of ganja. On­go­ing is­land­wide surveil­lance in drugtreat­ment cen­tres also re­vealed that 50 per cent of the clients are in treat­ment for ganja use.


De La Haye an­nounced that a Na­tional Drug Preva­lence Sur­vey is now un­der way across the is­land and will pro­vide key in­for­ma­tion on cur­rent pat­terns of use among the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion ages 12-65 years, and pro­vide key base­line data for us to de­ter­mine trends.

Re­ports from key stake­hold­ers in the law-en­force­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and health sec­tors have been con­sis­tent re­gard­ing pub­lic per­cep­tion of the re­cent amend­ments to the Dan­ger­ous Drugs Act.

The per­cep­tion, par­tic­u­larly among youth, is that ganja is now a le­gal drug to be used at leisure re­gard­less of lo­ca­tion, age, quan­tity and con­text.

Lack of en­force­ment of laws con­cern­ing pos­ses­sion and smok­ing of ganja is also lead­ing to a break­down in law and or­der and de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of non­smok­ers’ rights to en­joy smoke­free en­vi­ron­ments, es­pe­cially in pub­lic spaces.

The NCDA pro­posed and pre­sented a com­pre­hen­sive pub­lic-ed­u­ca­tion cam­paign to the Cab­i­net sub­com­mit­tee on ganja, which was ac­cepted and should have been funded by the par­tic­i­pat­ing govern­ment agen­cies/min­istries.

To date, the Min­istry of Health is the only min­istry that has contributed to the pub­lice­d­u­ca­tion cam­paign and ad­di­tional fund­ing was re­ceived from the United States Em­bassy through the In­ter­na­tional Nar­cotics Leg­is­la­tion.

De La Haye said of the $321 mil­lion needed for this com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy, just 20 per cent was re­ceived and ex­pended. The ad­di­tional fund­ing is ur­gently re­quired to com­plete the pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme to in­form per­sons on the harms of cannabis use and mis­use, treat­ment op­tions and a spe­cial em­pha­sis on preven­tion of use by the youth.

The meet­ing was or­gan­ised by the De­part­ment of Non­Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Dis­eases and Men­tal Health, PAHO.

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