Drug use increase among youths

Smoking with a glass pipe
Smoking with a glass pipe (Photo credit: Grav 8V)

Anti-drugs advocates are fighting against tobacco smoking and the use of ecstasy among Jamaican youths.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the United States of America, ecstasy is a synthetic (man-made) drug that alters mood and perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions). It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception.

Michael Tucker, executive director of the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), is among the stakeholders most concerned about the worrying trend for Jamaican youth. “It can cause serious problems with young people. It can affect their brains and affect their heart rates, affect how they operate normally, make them do things they wouldn’t normally do and lose control,” said Tucker.

He shared his concerns at the World No Tobacco Day Youth Forum held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel on Tuesday, 31 May 2022.

Smoking like taking ecstasy is disapproved, as some young people are also involved in this practice. Dr Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health and Wellness, said approximately eight million people die each year because of direct tobacco use and second-hand exposure, and approximately 65,000 young people, die each year because of tobacco use and through second-hand smoke. According to Tufton the latest research by the NCDA suggested that tobacco is used more prevalently than other drugs in schools. “Drugs in school, it is a concern, and more specifically e-cigarettes and the access because of the way these are developed, produced, and marketed in the school system … ,” the health minister said. “The research does suggest that 15 per cent of children use tobacco. Marijuana also factors in the research,” Tufton said.

But two guidance counsellors share that drugs are seldom found on their school compound.  Jennifer Jarrett, a guidance counsellor at Calabar High, who was present at Tuesday’s forum, said smuggling of drugs on the school compound had not been as pervasive as in the past but was still a nagging concern. “We have seen a significant difference, and the reason for that is because of certain programmes that we have had in the school from the guidance department,” said Jarrett.

“Young men now, they are able to express themselves to us as counsellors. They have their teachers. They have their dean of studies. They have the dean of discipline that they can really talk to and relate to,” she added.

Another guidance counsellor, Nova Henry of Jamaica College, shared similar sentiments. “There is no prevalent drug use at our school. If any issue comes up, there are intervention strategies that we use, and, in fact, we use a programme and partnership with the National Council on Drug Abuse to come in,” said Henry.

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