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Cops step up anti-drug message in schools

Published:Sunday | February 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM

LOCAL COPS, tired of just seizing drugs and arresting the perpetrators, have turned their attention to tackling the problem on one of its most vulnerable fronts: the minds of children.

Through lectures and exhibitions, the Jamaica Constabulary Force's transnational crime and narcotics division has intensified its Demand-Reduction Programme aimed at swaying persons, especially children, from drug use.

"The use of drugs by children is of a magnitude that is not uncontrollable. We can reduce this problem through education and using that as a preventative measure. As in anything, we believe there is hope. We can overcome the problem," Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Keisha Scott told
The Sunday Gleaner

Approximately one in three students in secondary schools admit to using ganja in Jamaica, according to Ministry of Health research. One in 10 students admit to using the drug currently.

Many youngsters in Jamaica start using ganja between age 10 and 12, studies have found.

Scott, who is the administrator of the Demand-Reduction Programme, says there appears to be a general acceptance of drug use in communities.

"A student has asked me what is wrong with legalising drug use. It is such a part of his community that he does not see anything wrong with it. What is frightening is that a lot of the students do not realise the dangers of drug use," Scott said.

Widespread use

She said marijuana use among some students was widespread and there were instances of cocaine and ecstasy use. But it is not just the use that concerns the police. Scott said that during the lectures and exhibitions, the police have discovered that children are being used by adults as drug dealers.

She told
The Sunday Gleaner
that in the parishes of Manchester, St Elizabeth and Clarendon, children are used as part of the business operations of cultivating and trading in ganja.

"The people in these areas don't see anything wrong with it, and so we have this task of convincing them about the ills and to try and show them another way," Scott said.

For years, law enforcement, health and education officials have grappled with the perceived increase in the abuse of dangerous drugs by children.

Data out of local treatment and rehabilitation centres indicate that for the period January to December 2007, 411 persons were admitted for alcohol and other drug addiction. The data also indicated that 48.4 per cent started using alcohol between ages 10 and 14.

The 2006 National School Survey by the National Council on Drug Abuse found that more than 44 per cent of students reported that they had had to repeat a grade because of their drug habits. Close to 40 per cent who use illegal drugs have found it impossible to complete their schooling.