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Council says teens' access to drugs worrisome

Published:Thursday | November 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:The National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) has expressed concern with what it terms the ease of access to alcohol and substances that are being used by children and young adults.

Analyst at the NCDA Uki Anderson said based on its National Secondary School Drug Prevalence Survey conducted in 2013 among 38 schools, children living in rural and western parishes were able to access the substances they abuse more easily than their counterparts in other parishes.

"The report indicated that 43.2 per cent of students said marijuana was the easiest illicit drug to access, while 5.5 said cocaine and 4.5 felt that ecstasy was easily accessible. More females than males reported that marijuana and cocaine were easily accessible, while significantly more males than females reported greater accessibility to crack, heroin, ecstasy, LSD. What is surprising is that more tenth-grade students reported easy access to illicit drugs than any other grade level," Anderson explained

The study interviewed 3,365 students across 38 schools from 11 parishes. Students were sampled from grades eight, 10, 11 & 12.

Alcohol most popular

Alcohol is the most widely used substance, with use being highest among those 17 years or older, while prevalence of cigarette and marijuana use was higher among the 15-16 age group.

Anderson said, however, that there has been a marginal decrease in the use of alcohol and marijuana over the past six years. The opposite is true for cigarette use which recorded increases for the period.

"The data indicates that 20.8 per cent of the students reported that their father or guardian smoked regularly, 3.5 per cent said mother or guardian, while 2.5 per cent said both parents smoked,"said Anderson.

She said the vast majority of students reported that they have not been a part of a drug-prevention or treatment programme within the past year or current school year (approximately 84 per cent and 91 per cent respectively).

She said the findings of the study highlights the need for an increase in the number and creativity of prevention and intervention programmes geared towards schools, among parents and within communities across Jamaica. These strategies should seek not only to educate, but to help develop drug-use resistance skills among adolescents that will counter the effect of the risk factors which may be present in their homes and communities.