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NCDA moves to address substance abuse in schools

Monday, May 12, 2014    

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THE National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) says it will be taking steps to restrict the availability and access to drugs in schools.

Executive director of the NCDA, Michael Tucker, expressed concern over the findings of the National Secondary School Survey at a breakfast meeting at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston last Friday to announce the results of the survey, which was conducted by the NCDA.

He said that in light of the findings, the NCDA will seek to offer smoking cessation programmes within schools that need the intervention.

Tucker added that the NCDA has to ensure that there are more sustainable interventions within the school system.

"We also have to ensure that when things like these (the survey) are done we not only look at what is happening here, we look at the best practices and what has worked elsewhere so that we can really adopt what has been done, what has been successful and what has had an impact," he said.

Additionally, the NCDA head said targets will have to be placed on parenting. "We have to increase parental awareness about what an important role they have to play and we have to include drug related information in parenting programmes to highlight risk and protective factors associated with parents and drug use," he stated.

The final report of the survey found that alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and solvents/inhalants continue to be the substances most commonly used by students in Jamaica.

The study contains data from 3,365 students across 38 schools from 11 parishes.

Most of the students who participated were females (57.3 per cent) and 42.7 per cent were males. The age range of students was between 11 to 25 years, with the mean age being 14 years.

The report also showed that alcohol is the most widely used substance with use being highest among those 17 years old or older, while prevalence of cigarette and marijuana use was higher among the 15 to 16 age groups.

"When we look at prevalence, alcohol is the drug that is most frequently used by our adolescents for a (span) of one year and one month. Approximately two thirds of the sample reported use of 44 per cent for one year and 33 per cent for one month," said Uki Atkinson, research analyst at the NCDA.

The report also showed that there have been marginal decreases in alcohol and marijuana use over the past six years.

Of those who reported using alcohol there was a prevalence ratio of one in five students who used alcohol being at risk for alcohol abuse.

This was similar among those who reported using marijuana, where there was also a one in five risk for marijuana abuse among students in this group.

"Prevalence of alcoholic drinks by gender, what we are seeing is that for one month males were significantly more likely to report use of alcohol. The differences weren't too significant in terms of the gender comparison. For marijuana use we are seeing significant differences and this has remained standard since the last survey where significantly more males were likely to report use," Atkinson explained.

She also disclosed that solvent and inhalant use has gone up significantly in the 2013 survey.

"Initially we were a little worried... wondering if it is how the question was asked, but this is what the data said and so we stand by it," she stated.

The report also noted that 43.2 per cent of the respondents reported that marijuana was the easiest illicit drug to access; 5.5 per cent felt that cocaine was easy to access; 4.5 per cent felt that ecstasy was easily accessible; and significantly more males than females reported greater accessibility to crack, ecstasy and heroin.

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