KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – Results from a drug-prevalence survey conducted by the National Council for Drug Abuse (NCDA) show that the use of substances, including alcohol, tobacco and ganja, continues to be significantly higher among males than females in Jamaica.
The survey was done to determine the prevalence and patterns of substance use among the ages 12-65 population.
Research Analyst at the NCDA, Uki Atkinson said the survey also measured access and availability of drugs, perception of risk of using various drugs, attitudes towards ganja decriminalisation, and the need for drug treatment due to problematic substance use, among other issues.
She was speaking at a JIS Think Tank earlier today (November 16).
The data, which was collected from April to July from 4,623 persons residing in households across Jamaica, found that five per cent of females currently use ganja compared to 27 per cent of males.
Additionally, 16 per cent of the respondents currently use ganja, while 28 per cent reported that they have used ganja at some point in their lifetime.
It further found that more than 70 per cent of the population has easy access to ganja.
In addition, a third of the population reported that they did not know any of the changes recently made to the Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA) and only a half of the population reported that they were aware of a few of the changes to the legislation.
Atkinson said that this "speaks to the need for more public education on the issue".
The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) 2015 Act makes the possession of small quantities of ganja a non-arrestable offence, and instead makes it a 'ticketable' infraction that does not result in a criminal record.
It also permits the use of ganja for religious, medical, scientific, and therapeutic purposes, and provides for regulation through the granting of licences to permit the development of a lawful industry for medical ganja and industrial hemp.
In the meantime, Atkinson said that four in 10 persons reported that they currently use alcohol, which remains the drug that is most widely used within the population.
Atkinson explained that the survey is important for the purposes of tracking trends over time; developing a country-specific profile of particular population groups; crafting appropriate policies, guidelines and interventions as well as establishing benchmarks to evaluate the impact of the interventions.
The survey was undertaken with funding and technical support from the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Jamaica was one of three countries within the region that received funding from the OAS for this survey.