By Kimone Witter
The National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) is on alert for the presence of the illegal drug methamphetamine (meth) in Jamaica as the use of similar psychoactive substances have been increasing in the region.
Uki Atkinson, Research Analyst at the NCDA, says the patterns of drug use are changing with pills becoming more popular among adolescents and young adults.
Last week, Barbados confirmed the presence of meth on the island and health authorities there warned members of the public to avoid the drug at all costs since it could lead to death.
Methamphetamine or crystal meth is a potent central nervous system stimulant, mainly used as a recreational drug and less commonly as a second-line treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obesity.
The drug has a number of street names, including 'ice' and 'glass'. It resembles shiny "rocks" or fragments of glass of varying sizes.
Ms Atkinson said while the NCDA has not heard of any case of meth use in Jamaica, it is only a matter of time, since the use of psychoactive substances - which include a range of synthetic chemicals - has been increasing in the region over the last few years.
Ms Atkinson said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has reported that more than 1,000 new psychoactive substances have been trafficked in the last 10 years.
Jamaica, with the help of regional and international partners, is developing an early warning system to test and detect psychoactive drugs as soon as they are introduced to the market, she said.
The research analyst noted that some of the psychoactive drugs, including MDMA (Molly or ecstacy), are being mixed with other substances that are also harmful to public health.
Ms Atkinson said the use of MDMA or Molly is still prevalent in Jamaica, as she warned especially young people to be careful of being drugged.
She said the NCDA is hopeful that legislation to govern the sale and use of Molly will be enacted shortly.
"What we are pushing for is for legislative measures that will allow us to apply penalties that are more stringent than now apply," she indicated.