Objective: National secondary school-based drug surveys facilitate the identification and understanding of patterns of substance use among adolescents, associated risk and protective factors which exist and inform prevention and treatment interventions and policies which are appropriate for resource constrained settings. This paper analyses current trends as well as reviews trends from the last National School Survey conducted by the National Council on Drug Abuse in 2006.
Method: The study utilized a survey design that included a representative sample of secondary school students. Data were collected from 3365 students from 38 schools across the island. The study made specific reference to the prevalence of alcohol, tobacco cigarette, marijuana and inhalant use among secondary school students.
Results: The most widely used substances among the sample were alcohol, tobacco cigarettes, marijuana and solvents/inhalants. A large number of students (64%) reported a lifetime prevalence of alcohol use. Alcohol use was also the highest for one-year (44%) and one-month (33.6%) use. While lifetime use of tobacco cigarette was higher than marijuana, one-year and one-month use of marijuana was higher than that of tobacco cigarette. There has been a slight increase in the age of initiation for alcohol, tobacco cigarette and marijuana use. There has also been a significant decrease (approximately 50%) in lifetime, past year and past month prevalence of inhalant use since the 2006 secondary school survey.
Conclusions: Alcohol continues to be the substance most widely used by Jamaican adolescents, followed by tobacco, marijuana and inhalants. Though the average age of first use has slightly increased for all substances, prevalence remains a concern. As such, innovative school-based interventions are required to assist in reducing substance use among Jamaican adolescents.