Photo: Dave Reid
The National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) has been helping drug addicts to kick the habit and to focus on getting their lives on a positive path.
One such person is Marlon Lopez, a recovering marijuana addict, who gave his testimony at a forum held recently at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
“When you get into substance abuse, you are pretty much isolated, so it was the NCDA, through treatment and counselling, that allowed me to be rehabilitated and reintegrated,” he said.
Mr. Lopez, who is 43 years old, noted that for 25 years he was a regular ganja smoker, having started while in high school.
He explained that he has not relied on the substance for the last two years and is “extremely grateful” to the NCDA for rescuing him from a “wasted life”.
“It is a serious issue. My life was pretty much wasted because of my habitual use of marijuana from my teen years. It was very difficult, and had it not been for the intervention of the NCDA, I wouldn’t be sober today,” he told the audience.
The NCDA is an agency of the Ministry of Health, 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.
“It is about saving lives, especially young people. They get influenced by misinformation, by peers, and having problems that they cannot cope with,” says Executive Director of the NCDA, Michael Tucker, in an interview with JIS News.
He adds that there is “significant” substance abuse that is negatively affecting young people, and the organisation’s teams and partners work assiduously to help them “get their lives organised and able to look at a bright future”.
The forum was staged by the NCDA to release the 2017 findings on drug and alcohol abuse in sections of the island, and to relaunch the Jamaica Drug Information Network (JADIN), which collaborates with several partners to facilitate, monitor, determine trends, threats, gaps and successes in the work to combat drug abuse.
Organization of American States (OAS) Representative to Jamaica, Jeanelle Van Glaanenweygel, in her endorsement of the Network, said it should be part of “any drug surveillance system”, as it is a “necessary” tool for national drug observance.
“A well-functioning JADIN will enhance Jamaica’s ability to collect, analyse and disseminate information on drugs from all relevant stakeholders, for the purpose of monitoring and developing policy and programme responses,” the OAS official said.
Research Analyst with the NCDA, Uki Atkinson, tells JIS News that they have a network of officers in every parish to make the necessary interventions for recovery, and also to educate persons on the risks of substance abuse.
“We are out there, and we are calling for people to give us help. We really need partners such as parents, community members and children to further the cause,” she says.
Persons wishing to volunteer with the NCDA can reach them at 926-9002 or 1-888-991-4244, as well as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, Head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Community Safety and Security Branch, Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police, Steve McGregor, who was a participant at the forum, appealed to schools to reach out to the police to prevent substances being sold close to the institutions.
“I would like to see the schools take a more proactive approach to prevent these things from entering. We will do as much as we can, from the police’s standpoint, but we need that collaborative effort between the schools and the JCF,” he said.