THE Government has sounded the alarm on Molly usage in Jamaica, hinting at legislative action against users and dealers of the illegal drug, which officials say is better late than never.
A release from the Office of the Prime Minister on Wednesday said there ought to be laws to capture the threats of "psychoactive substances", like the mood-altering drug Molly, and hold traffickers accountable.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness learnt of the drug's prevalence across the island and the "increased use of psychoactive substances and its deviant effect on our youth" late last month when he chaired the monthly sitting of the National Security Council (NSC), where the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) presented its findings.
Two months prior, the Sunday Observer did an exposÃ© on the growing use of Molly pills at parties through a series of stories and a video documentary entitled Molly Predicament.
The print and video productions featured health professionals from Heart Institute of the Caribbean, Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica, and the South East Regional Health Authority, who warned that use of the drug poses serious threats to the heart and brain.
Attorney-at-law Peter Champagnie, who was a part of the 37-minute documentary, warned that Molly, and any other illegal drug, can land users in jail. He also underscored that parents of youngsters using Molly could find themselves in a legal dilemma.
Reacting to the Government's decision to take legislative action regarding the drug, Champagnie told the Observer that it is a national good.
"The prime minister must be commended for that. It is something that is absolutely necessary because gone are the days when the mainstream drugs were ganja and cocaine. There are derivatives of all kinds of drugs now, and this kind of generation is exposed to it in a way that was never so before. So it's welcomed news and commendation," he said.
"I think it was a combination of great investigative journalism. I think it was a combination of various stakeholders in the industry, in the justice system, the child-care system, the schools, teachers, and all of that. And I think that the Jamaica Observer is to be credited to a large extent for bringing it to the fore. I am just happy and honoured that I could have, in a small way, given some insights to the problem from a legal perspective," Champagnie added.
A man who sells the pills for $2,500 claimed that he did not know they were illegal.
"I didn't know they were illegal, but still, if police search me right now, they will not find any. They usually go at parties... people call and order them for parties. A lot of the schoolchildren want them, but I personally don't sell children. That don't mean others not selling them," he said.
Just three weeks ago, a police constable reached out to the Observer, on condition of anonymity, and shared that his 16-year-old cousin's encounter with Molly at a pill party sent their family into panic mode and ultimately resulted in her having to seek professional help. The cop had said that the same emphasis placed on marijuana and cocaine abstinence should be placed on Molly and described the use of the pill among young people as an epidemic.
According to the Office of the Prime Minister, a recent situational assessment undertaken by the NCDA pointed to a growing trend in the use of Molly, particularly among the youth and young adults. The NCDA highlighted that the impact of the drug has manifested in increased socially risky and physically dangerous behaviour.
Mischa Christie, a Jamaican medical writer in the United Kingdom told the Observer that considering the fact that the documentary highlighted how widescale the issue was three months ago, the Government's intervention is late.
"It should've been addressed from a while back, but it's a better-late-than-never case. We know so many issues in Jamaica aren't even being looked at yet by the Government, so I'm just glad that this issue made it into the queue," Christie said.
"I'm glad the Government has decided to make this move. Having substances with fatal potential being unregulated is just a recipe for trouble and even possible strain on the health-care system."
However, Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica Secretary Kevar Bennett said a quicker response time from the Government may have been affected by investigations.
"We all would expect some sort of intervention from the Government, especially the Ministry of Education, where the issue seems to be plaguing our youth. Many of them would have been exposed from as early as the high school stage. The matter of sooner or later is technical as there would need to be some sort of assessment and consultation amongst our youth population. It is very promising to know that the Government is taking steps to safeguard our youths against substance abuse that can have a devastating impact on their future."
Aside from the risks associated with these trendy drugs, the NSC has advised that the vast majority of the drugs being sold on the market to unsuspecting users contain other dangerous and toxic synthetic substances, which oftentimes have negative long-term effects on the human body.
The council warned Jamaicans, particularly young people, to stay away from the use of Molly and all other forms of drugs.
Dr Soliman Hegazy, consultant cardiologist at HIC had listed several heart complications that could arise as a result of repeated use of illegal drugs. He, too, said he anticipated a fast response from the Government.
"I wished that my message would ring a national alert to take some legislative response to prevent such a national disaster. For the sake of the Jamaican population, I expected a rapid response to prevent such problem that would have an impact on our young generation and would directly be related to the increased crime and violence in the country."