ST ANN, Jamaica – The National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) says students of the Ocho Rios Primary School in St Ann who consumed drug-infused sweets will be closely monitored over the next few weeks for psychological effects.
NCDA Substance Abuse Officer for the parish, Nordia Henry was at the St Ann’s Bay Regional Hospital on Monday where over 60 affected children were treated.
She said at least five of them were kept overnight for observation.
Henry sought to allay fears of the children having consumed drugs for the first time being at risk of becoming addicts.
“I believe that all of these children that were affected were using it for the first time. However, the signs that we were seeing were children that were unresponsive, in and out of consciousness, I believe it would be dependent on the amount that they would have consumed. What we need to look for is whether or not there will be psychological impacts on the children later on. I do not believe it will make them turn addicts though, most of them were dehydrated and so were being administered fluid at the hospital but we would have to observe and see going forward how well they pull through and their reaction to the substance they would have consumed,” she said.
It has been reported that the children purchased the drug-infused sweets from a male vendor, who was not known to them.
Henry said checks of the sweets packaging revealed that the candy expired on Sunday.
Media reports indicate that the sweets were laced with ganja, however Henry said the NCDA will conduct tests on the sweets to determine what specific drugs are infused.
She added the NCDA had done substance awareness sessions at the school, prior to the COVID pandemic, but Monday’s incident highlighted the need for follow-up intervention. As a result, representatives from the entity visited the institution on Tuesday. The visit involved discussions about long-term prevention.
“We are going to be doing an intervention at the school, also we’ll be speaking with the principal about long term prevention programmes for the children because they need to be able to identify what these substances are. The packet that the children had, we saw they were clearly labelled “THC” but they obviously they did not know what THC meant they were not able to identify that these sweets contained a drug, and the person that was selling, there were speculations that he himself was not aware of what he was selling the children,” Henry said.
“We don’t know if that is the case but both parents and children need to be aware of what it is that they need to look for, parents need to speak to their kids about buying from strangers, not talking to strangers. Basically we have to go back to the basics, talking to parents and we will be talking to the children and we will be having discussions with the principal and school administration about a long term prevention programme going forward,” she continued.
Henry is appealing to volunteers to collaborate with the NCDA to carry out the intervention sessions.
“We have been to Ocho Rios Primary, we have done parenting programmes at Ochi Primary, however, it has been a while since we have been there because St. Ann only has one officer currently, so I tend to work in clusters, but clearly there is a need to do more in terms of prevention with our children and our adolescents, but unfortunately when it comes to human capital we are limited. I rely heavily on volunteers to help us with the delivery of our programmes so anybody willing to participate, please do not hesitate to contact us because we have several schools that will benefit from our intervention, but we can only do so much and no more each year,” she said