Eighty per cent of boys who have demonstrated behavioural problems in schools have reported cannabis use.
Those are among statistics presented by the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) during a Gleaner Editors' Forum held on Wednesday at the newspaper's North Street, central Kingston, offices.
NCDA Chairman Dr Wendel Abel said 80 per cent of these boys had learning problems.
He also noted that figures showed many of the children generally with behavioural problems also admitted to drug use.
"Our treatment facilities islandwide are inundated with adolescents with drug-use problems," said Abel.
He noted that more adolescents were smoking tobacco, and said their households were using tobacco more as well.
When asked if there was a correlation between boys, substance abuse and gang culture, Abel said data showed that of young people showing antisocial, aggressive behaviour, many admit to drug use.
"So the gang involvement shares some of the same risk factors with drug use in terms of poor parenting and those issues," he said.
Executive director of the NCDA, Michael Tucker, said young people were also involved in production and sale of ganja, which is a significant part of supporting the gang activities.
The NCDA members said there had to be a collaboration with professional mental-health networks to formalise and structure the treatment delivered.
"A lot of these children also report problems in terms of their family, poor relationship with parents, broken homes and so on," said Abel, noting there was debate as to what comes first, the mental illness or the abuse.
"Addiction begins and ends with pain. When you look at the lives of these youngsters, you see a lot of the risk factors," he said. "And as a result of these problems, it puts them at risk for depression."
He said many young people use drugs to 'self-medicate'.
"But of course the continued drug use is going to bring with it a lot of other problems. You begin to see the deterioration in their school performance, you see the behavioural problems and for some persons, it may also result in long-term mental-health issues."
But he disagreed with a Ministry of Education move to establish a facility for children with behavioural problems. He felt this would not address the problem.
"Where we need to focus our limited resources is on the level where we can begin to work with the family system to improve the parenting skills," he said. "We need to address the learning problems that these children have and certainly to address the substance abuse problem by providing more opportunities for treatment and counselling."