Sun | Dec 10, 2017

Michael Tucker | The truth about #TalkDiTruth and ganja

Published:Sunday | September 24, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Michael Tucker

The National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), in response to a recent article by Yvonne McCalla Sobers, would like to clarify points that have come out of that commentary and establish the aim of their youth ganja public-education campaign.

#TalkDiTruth (TDT) is one of our programmatic responses to the needs of Jamaican youths. The programme design has as its foundation research with adolescent youths, as they answer questions on who they want information from about ganja and how that information is to be presented. Based on the needs they have articulated, this programme uses a participatory, conversational and peer-led approach that helps the youth to see possibilities, and determine how to achieve them while considering their different realities.

As it relates to some specific questions surrounding the youth ganja public education campaign, the NCDA would like to highlight the following:

- The campaign seeks to delay or prevent the use of any substance - legal or illegal - and will utilise strategies that include providing information and building developmental life skills.

- The campaign is based and guided by current and relevant research (National Schools Survey 2013, National Household Survey 2016), among others.

- We want to communicate effectively with young people in their environment using their language. This conversation will be facilitated through open and truthful exchange of what they know and believe. This communication will use the colloquial term 'ganja'.

- We want open conversation with our youth, their parents and caregivers to be based on facts not fear. There is no lecturing. There are no judgemental comments and no scare tactics, only information based on accurate and reliable research.

This yearlong programme has three main components to target youth:

- Social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)

- Traditional media (radio, TV, billboards)

- Interpersonal communication (TDT In-school programme).

It is important to note that research presented in the National Institute on Drug Abuse International Forum (June 2017) states that there is moderate evidence that ganja use:

- Increases the risk of child overdose injury

- Impairs learning, memory and attention

Increases the risk of depressive disorders

- Increases social anxiety disorder and worsens schizophrenia.

We acknowledge that the truth experienced by many Jamaican youths is that:

- Not everybody is going to go mad when they smoke ganja.

- There are productive individuals in the society, including lawyers, doctors, etc., who smoke ganja.

- Even among their peers, the experience can have no negative outcomes.

The truth as we also know it is that:

- Adolescent brains are not fully developed and are, therefore, more susceptible to negative effects from smoking ganja.

- Regular smoking of ganja may lead to a loss of focus and an inability to concentrate on their schoolwork.

 Learning all you can about ganja will help you make the right choice for a path to success.

 

COLLABORATIVE APPROACH NEEDED

 

Addressing the public-health implications of ganja and other substance use requires a collaborative and multisectional approach if substantive gains are to be achieved and sustained. The Ministry of Health and the NCDA have in train numerous initiatives to establish the regulatory and change management framework to facilitate behaviour change in the Jamaican population generally, but in our youth population in particular.

Partnerships with other ministries, agencies, the private sector, academia, local non-governmental organisations, international agencies, and other stakeholders are vital in mitigating the adverse health implications associated with substance use and misuse, including the use of ganja.

The public-education campaign will be monitored and evaluated to establish the elements that work and the ones that do not, with a view to improving its effectiveness. We need all hands on deck to ensure our youth make the right choices as it relates to their development, and that includes not using ganja at this stage in their lives.

- Michael Tucker is executive director NCDA. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mtucker@ncda.org.jm.