The National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), in collaboration with the Ministry of National Security (MNS) and other local stakeholders such as the Jamaica Customs Agency, is taking steps to launch an Early Warning System (EWS) on Drugs. According to Mr. Michael Tucker, Executive Director of the NCDA ,“This mechanism is a multidisciplinary network which includes key local actors that are directly or indirectly linked to the phenomenon of drugs”. These include the NCDA; various Branches of the Ministry of National Security such as the JCF Narcotics Division, the Jamaica Crime Observatory, The Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine; the Jamaica Customs Agency; the Ministry of Health, Drug Treatment specialists, Hospitals, Academia, among others. Tucker noted that “On this International Day Against Drug Abuse and illicit Trafficking,the MNS and NCDA are pleased to conduct this launch the Early Warning System under the theme: Let’s Protect Our Country, Communities and Lives with a National Drug “Early Warning System”.
The EWS is designed to identify early events that pose a threat to Public Health and Security regarding New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) or “emerging drugs”. It facilitates the rapid exchange of information, unlike other reporting mechanisms that have annual reportingtimelines. Jamaica, along with other Caribbean countries, is part of several international agreements and mechanisms that have sought to encourage countries to develop EWS to handle the emergence of NPS and other substance related threats in their territories. Priority Data for the Early Warning System includes drug seizures; chemical identification of drugs; identification of drug use patterns; identification of new modalities of traditional drug consumption; toxicology; communication of harmful
effects of psychoactive substances (and/or adulterants in these substances) and related information.
Jamaica is satisfying multiple international requirements with the development of this EWS. Namely, the Hemispheric Drug Strategy (2018-2021) and the corresponding Plan of Action of the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD). These outline, as a priority, the establishment and/or strengthening of an EWS at the national level to promote, as appropriate, collaboration and the exchange of information with other existing regional or global systems. In addition, the Outcome Document of the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem also explicitly outlines the development of EWS to identify and monitor trends in the composition, production, prevalence and distribution of NPS, as well as patterns of use and adverse consequences, and assess the risks to health and safety of individuals and society as a whole and the need strengthen domestic and national legislative, regulatory, administrative and operational responses and practices.
Internationally, the establishment of the EWS was led by the Council of the European Union to strengthen regional institutional and legal mechanisms to rapidly control the emergence of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). Over the last few decades, there has been an unprecedented rise in the number of new drugs appearing on the global market. According to UNODC’s Global Smart
Programme, 14 countries and territories in Latin America and Caribbean have reported 178 different NPS belonging to diverse chemical groups in the past 10 years. In 2017 alone, 61 different NPS were reported to UNODC by 9 countries in the region. Mr. Rohan Richards, Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of National Security, speaking on the matter, notes that “the Government’s efforts to control and combat the world drug problem is constantly being monitored and evaluated”.
The International Narcotics Control recently recognised the efforts of the Government in the area of drug supply reduction and urged Jamaica “to continue investing in countering drug trafficking”. As such, “the Ministry of National Security is pleased to be part of this very important initiative to develop an EWS, as it can only serve to strengthen Jamaica’s efforts to address the drug situation. Our geographical position and the growing association between drugs and crime necessitates a collaborative approach to tackling the issues that face us”, Richards said.