Drug Abuse: A New Pandemic Ravaging The Active Population Of The Nation
By Femi Ogunshola
With worrisome statistics that more and more of teenagers and youth are getting addicted to drugs, experts are calling for concerted efforts by the government to rid the nation of the scourge, writes FEMI OGUNSHOLA
A new pandemic is raging and ravaging the active population of the nation – youths and experts are worried that the right attention is not yet drawn to it or strategies in place to arrest the scourge.
Neuro-psychiatrists are raising the alarm that drugs and drug addiction have left even its traditional space and slipping into primary and secondary schools across the country.
Checks revealed that in many public schools, even teenagers are becoming dangerously hooked to mind-bending drugs. They are therefore urging parents to be more involved in child-rearing and not leave the grooming of their children or wards to teachers.
Dr Yusuf Misau, Department of Community Medicine, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, said addiction in whatever form has become a silent reality that Nigerians should worry about.
He said that “drug abuse is a curse on the society because it comes at heavy cost with terrible implication on the individual and the community at large.
Experts at a workshop on the dangers of drug abuse and addiction to national development decried the involvement of Nigerian youths in the deviant act.
They blamed the prevalence of the act partly on poor parental upbringing and bad peer group influences, among others.
Participants at a capacity building workshop, organised by Green Crescent Health Development, in collaboration with the International Federation of Green Crescent, were drawn from community-based non-governmental organisations.
The theme of the workshop is: “Universal Addiction Advocacy Campaign Intervention.”
The United Nations Office on Crime and Drugs (UNODC), listed cannabis sativa as the most abused drug in Nigeria, by youths between 20-29 years.
Dr Mohammed Audi, the President of Green Crescent Health Development, stressed the need to support drug addiction prevention and also invest in the youths and other vulnerable population.
The prevention campaign, according to him is aimed at promoting healthy behaviour.
Audi said that keeping drug use prevalence low and continually reducing it remained the best prevention, noting that preventing harm from occurring in the most cost-effective.
He also said drug policies must be “human rights-based, gender-sensitive and age-appropriate.’’
Mr Khaleel Abdullahi, a legal practitioner, said drug problem is as old as man, noting that no society is immune to the negative consequences of illicit drugs.
He, however, said the issue assumed worrisome dimensions at the end of the Second World War, following the return of some Nigerian soldiers from Burma and India.
Abdullahi said some of the soldiers returned home with the seeds of the cannabis sativa which they experimented, and discovered it could grow well in some parts of the country.
He noted that, with time, the cultivation of cannabis sativa became popular, while the consumption also expanded.
He added that addiction, in all its ramifications remained the principal cause of low productivity, social vices, crimes, diseases, upheavals, suicide and political rascality especially in developing society.
Abdullahi said that substance addiction, such as drugs and alcohol cause clinical and functional impairments and disability, which sometimes lead to failure to meet major responsibilities.
According to him, behavioural addiction is what an individual learns over time and becomes part of such individual, which include gambling, playing cards, chess and ludo, among others.
“Technological addiction is otherwise known as Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is a new phenomenon, but already taking a new dimension in health practice.’’
He noted that though alcohol addiction is part of substance addiction, Nigerian law permits the licensing of breweries and beer parlours.
The only warning it gives according to the lawyer is, “Drink responsibly” or “Do not drink and drive.”
He stated that technological addiction, according to Nigerian law, is yet to be regulated, the duration somebody stays online or on a particular site, or a site where a child should not visit.
On gambling and other games of chance, he stated that Nigerian law is not discouraging gambling, but rather encourage it.
According to him, Nigerian law does not frontally address tobacco addiction, even with the existence of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015.
“Companies are only asked to advertise that smoking kills or the failed attempt that no one should smoke in public gatherings.’’
The legal practitioner noted that these statements were too charitable, adding that the implementation of the act is required to address addiction.
Abdullahi also said that the campaign on addiction prevention should be taken down to all strata of the society, especially schools where the leaders of tomorrow are being groomed.
He called on government agencies entrusted with the mandate to fight addiction to live up to their responsibilities and ensure they recruit the right people for the jobs.
“Whether chemical, behavioural or digital, is a scourge not only in the individual’s brain, but also on the vast majority of communities in Nigeria and the majority of concerned citizens crave to live in communities free from addiction and addiction-related harm.’’
Dr Tajudeen Abiola of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Kaduna, called for a comprehensive community-wide action to curb the problem.
He said the problem should be solved through an integrated and evidenced-based approach, adding that there must be community involvement.
According to him, we are painfully aware of the destructive impact of alcohol, tobacco and gambling industries in the country.
“We are deeply concerned about the emergence of online gaming, among others, that promote drug use and e-gaming for private profit, causing substantial harm, especially to the youths and vulnerable group.’’
Mr Abdullahi Baba-Husseini, Assistant Comptroller General, Narcotics (National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), said the collective effort was the only panacea to addressing the challenges of substance abuse.
He disclosed that no fewer than 14 per cent of Nigerians abuse different substances through addiction.
He listed the substances mostly abused as Tramadol, Benylin with codeine, adding that a high percentage of women were involved in drug abuse.
He said the agency has stepped up strategies to create awareness on drug abuse and its dangers, and called on state governments to include drug education in the school curriculum.
He said with the inclusion of drug education in the school curriculum, young people would be aware of the dangers inherent in indiscriminate drug use.
Baba-Husseini added that with rising population, the agency had low manpower to tackle the growing addiction, stressing that more partnership was needed to tackle drug addiction in the country.