Substance Abuse Officer for Westmoreland, Henry Hill, has shared that on average, 50 per cent of the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) clients are under 30 years old, 20 per cent are under the age of 20 and the remaining 30 per cent are over the age of 30.
He said that alcohol continues to be the most used substance by young people in Westmoreland, followed by marijuana and tobacco.
He also shared that the parish ranks either second or third in the use of all three substances based on the findings from the agency’s last national survey in 2017.
“In Westmoreland, what I specifically do is interface with our school population because what we are trying to do is to prevent or delay the onset use of substances among our young people, so we do a lot of work with schools,” he said.
“We work with youth clubs and churches to interface with the family. A lot of times when substance abuse happens, there are issues that are within the family that couldn’t be rectified at the beginning, so the persons would move to use substance,” he pointed out.
The targeted populations are also being reached through programmes such as ‘Strive’; which is a selective prevention initiative for children aged 11 to 15 years; ‘Talk di Truth’, which aims to discourage the use of marijuana among teenagers; and ‘Operation Lighthouse’, which is a universal programme for young people and their parents.
Hill said participants in these programmes are taught skills in conflict management and protecting themselves from getting involved in drugs.
The Substance Abuse Officer pointed out that participants in these programmes have been responding well to the information disseminated.
“What we do is monitoring and evaluation [of participants] so normally when we get into schools, we have pre-and post-evaluation, so what we try to do is we find that knowledge and awareness have increased,” he said.
He informed that the NCDA is continuing its programmes virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Providing further details regarding substance abuse in Westmoreland, Hill said that while alcohol use was 56 per cent nationally based on the 2017 survey, Westmoreland’s alcohol use was 52.5 per cent. The parish was second only to St Ann, which was at 69 per cent.
“Ganja use in that survey was 26.6 per cent nationally and Westmoreland once again was second with 19 per cent,” he informed.
“For tobacco use, national use was 16.8 per cent. Westmoreland was 14 per cent and that was behind St. Ann,” Hill continued.
He said that people, including children, continue to point to stress, anxiety and depression as the main reasons for substance abuse.
Hill adds that the NCDA continues to partner with guidance counsellors, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), the Ministry of Justice and other agencies to combat drug abuse.
The NCDA is an agency of the Ministry of Health and Wellness and provides quality and reliable information to policymakers, international partners and the general public about substance use, its nature, the extent, prevention, treatment, control and underlying problems that negatively impact nation-building