Dealing with a drug abuse, either personally or that of a friend or family member, can be a Herculean task but one can make the journey to recovery if one has the right tools. One of the first steps in getting over an addiction is to garner as much information as possible about the nature of substance abuse, the signs and the assistance that is available locally and internationally.



The National Council on Drug Abuse defines drug addiction as “a complex, and often chronic, brain disease. It is characterized by drug craving, seeking, and use that can persist even in the face of devastating life consequences.

“If a person is compulsively seeking and using a drug(s) despite negative consequences, such as loss of job, debt, family problems, or physical problems brought on by drug abuse, then he or she probably is addicted. And while people who are addicted may believe they can stop any time, most often they cannot, and will need professional help—first to determine if they in fact are addicted, and then to obtain drug abuse treatment.”

The government agency goes on to say that addiction is caused by changes in brain function as a result of prolonged substance use. These changes involve multiple brain circuits, including those responsible for governing self-control and other behaviors. However, there is hope as drug addiction is treatable using a combination of medication and behavioural therapies.

The council warns those seeking to kick the habit that relapse is common and can occur even after long periods of abstinence. But drug addicts should know that relapse does not mean that treatment has failed but rather that treatment should be attempted again or the modified. This also underscores the need for long-term care and communal support. 



One of the most challenging aspects of addiction is the fact that most addicts will not acknowledge that they have a problem and as a result refuse help. Very often an addicted person will know that they need help but are unable to break free from their cravings long enough to help themselves.

According to Narconon International, a US-based non-profit public benefit organization dedicated to eliminating drug abuse, an addict is more likely to discuss their habit after a major life altering event such as getting arrested, being kicked out of their home, the loss of a job or separation from their family. Persons seeking to help addicted persons are urged to seize this opportunity before cravings and the pressures of their environment set in.

There are signs that persons can use to determine if their loved one needs to be enrolled at a residential drug abuse programme, or rehab. These include but are not limited to:

  • Inability to stop drug use despite promises to quit, cut back or wean themselves off
  • Drug use is damaging the persons work relationships, school or other parts of life
  • Neglect of family and personal needs, such as personal grooming and proper nutrition

For referrals to treatment programs in Jamaica, call 1-888-991-4244, or visit the National Council on Drug Abuse at 2-6 Melmac Avenue.



Discovering that a loved one has an addiction is never easy. All at once decisions have to be made about how to deal with the barrage of medical and psychological challenges that the addict faces on a daily basis. One of the first things that persons can do is learn the signs and symptoms of substance abuse so they can take the first step to helping their friend or family member onto the path of recovery.

Each drug has its own unique manifestations but there are some general indications that a person is using drugs:

  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Mood swings; irritable and grumpy and then suddenly happy and bright
  • Withdrawal from family members
  • Careless about personal grooming
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, sports, and other favorite activities
  • Changed sleeping pattern; up at night and sleeps during the day
  • Red or glassy eyes
  • Sniffly or runny nose

Click here for a more detailed list of the effects of drug abuse.

Very often an addicted person will initially refuse to consider rehabilitation and the family may be disappointed that they cannot help. Enlisting professional help can provide the assistance you need to achieve your goal of sobriety for the addicted person.



According to Narconon International when a person is addicted to a drug or alcohol, the addiction is in control, not the person. The compulsive nature of addiction means that using more drugs or alcohol feels as essential as taking his next breath.



"An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure"- Benjamin Franklin

Given its aggressively destructive nature, it is often better if persons do not become entangled in substance abuse of any kind. Some may argue that the decision to abuse drugs or other substances is an individual’s decision, so how can one prevent someone from becoming hooked on drugs?

Narconon International says that “young people must feel that the risks of using drugs far outweigh what they see as the benefits.” Drug education must fill this void with accurate information about the risks of drug use, presented in a believable manner.

The main appeal of drug use is the perception that it will solve problems or allow the user to escape reality. The problems could be shyness or inability to fit in, stress of social, school or family situations, boredom or lack of adventure or excitement. Proper preventative drug education must offer an alternative to the escape offered by illicit drug use.

The US-based National Institute on Drug Abuse lists the principles that should be included in a successful prevention programme.



Here is a list of terms that you should become familiar with, a more complete list can be found here.

Abuse - Excessive use of a substance in a way it was not meant to be used or not as prescribed.

Addiction - A behavioral syndrome characterized by the repeated, compulsive seeking or use of a substance despite adverse social, psychological, and/or physical consequences, and a need for an increased amount of the substance, as time goes on, to achieve the same effect. Addiction is often (but not always) accompanied by physical dependence, a withdrawal syndrome, and tolerance.

Detox - The metabolic process by which the toxic qualities of a poison or toxin are reduced by the body.

Dopamine - Dopamine is a chemical naturally produced in the body. In the brain, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter which provides feelings of euphoria and well being. Drugs cause a surge in levels of dopamine, which results in feelings of pleasure.

Relapse - A relapse occurs when a person is affected again by a condition that affected them in the past. This could be a medical condition such as depression, bipolar disorder, cancer or an addiction to a drug.

Remission - A period of time in which the signs and symptoms of the addiction have disappeared.

Withdrawal - Withdrawal syndrome consists of a predictable group of signs and symptoms resulting from abrupt removal of, or a rapid decrease in, the regular dosage of a psychoactive substance.


Success stories



For a list of drug treatment services offered in Jamaica click here.

2-6 Melmac Avenue
Kingston 5
Tel 926-9002-4, 1-888-991-4244
4652 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Phone: 323-962-2404
Fax: 323-962-6872
6 Upper Musgrave Road, St Andrew
Tel 978-2324, 978-1670
Assessment and Detoxification Unit at UHWI, Mona
Tel 977-0705.
57 East Street
Tel: 967-3777
Counselling Lifeline Number (Toll Free): 1-888-991-4146


National Council for Drug Abuse.
“Frequently Asked Questions- Drug Addiction/Abuse”.
Narconon International.
“Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use”.
Narconon International.
“Drug Prevention & Drug Education”.
Narconon International.
“Drug Rehab”.
National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“Preventing Drug Abuse among Children and Adolescents (In Brief)”.
The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment.
“Glossary of Terms”.