Nigeria’s Health Minister Dr. Osagie Ehanire said an estimated 14.3 million people are addicted to various forms of drugs. The minister said the ages of those addicted are between 15 and 64 years who use drugs like cannabis, amphetamines, opioids, and cocaine. The minister raised alarm over the increasing number of drug addiction in Nigeria and called on school administrators and parents be proactive. Speaking at the two-day national summit on menace of drugs and substance abuse among the youth, the Minister who was represented by the Medical Director, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Kaduna, Professor Abdulkareem Jika Yusuf said parents, especially mothers and school authorities have fundamental roles to play in addressing the problem. “They must create time and seize opportunities to shape children under their watch, to be the kind of youths and adults they would want them to be. The harsh economic realities of our time cannot be excuse for not accomplishing the divine responsibilities bestowed on us as parents or guidance in the form of School administrators,” he said. The minister said that, the Government of Katsina State, which recently enacted an Edict on “Responsible Parenting / Almajiri Right Protection Edict to address the drug issue. He said, “Clearly, all tiers of government are doing quite a lot to stem the menace of drug abuse in our society, but while the society bears the brunt of the consequences of drug use, the family comes off the worst considering the stigma and the negative economic impact inherent with drug use and addiction.”
Over the past year alone, nearly 15 per cent of the adult population in Nigeria (around 14.3 million people) reported a “considerable level” of use of psychoactive drug substances—it’s a rate much higher than the 2016 global average of 5.6 per cent among adults. The survey was led by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Center for Research and Information on Substance Abuse with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and funding from the European Union. It showed the highest levels of drug use was recorded among people aged between 25 and 39, with cannabis being the most widely used drug. Sedatives, heroin, cocaine and the non-medical use of prescription opioids were also noted. The survey excluded the use of tobacco and alcohol.
Drug use habits in Nigeria have devolved with young people increasingly resorting to potent mixtures of several drugs at the high risk of fatal overdoses. For instance, “gutter water,” a widely consumed cocktail of drugs, is a mix of codeine, tramadol, Rohypnol, cannabis and water or juice. Some young adults are also turning to crude concoctions as alternatives, including smoking lizard parts and dung as well as sniffing glue, petrol, sewage and urine as inhalants. Stemming the flow of opioid imports has proven particularly difficult for Nigerian authorities. Two high-profile raids at the country’s largest port resulted in the seizure of over half a billion tablets of Tramadol, a pain relief drug often. The inflow of opioids isn’t limited to Nigerian alone either as UNODC says west, north and central Africa jointly account for 87% of all pharmaceutical opiates seized globally. Asides from the imports, Nigeria also faces an internal problem with corruption at major local pharmaceutical companies boosting the illicit supply of codeine-based cough syrups to drug users. But while the widespread illicit drug use lingers, the survey also notes there are major gaps in Nigeria’s healthcare system in “meeting the needs for treatment and care for people with drug use disorders.”
The NBS report said, “The extent of the problem is such that it cannot be addressed alone by any single entity within the government or by the government alone.” So, it is a problem that demands the collaboration of all segments of society, especially the family, where parents and guardians should pay more attention to what their children and wards are doing. Religious groups also have a big role to play in keeping the youth away from drugs, especially through enlightenment.
Only a few government-owned clinics are adequately staffed and equipped for treating drug use while private clinics often prove too expensive for many. Indeed, around 40% of the two-thirds of high-risk drug users who reported a need for treatment for drug use were unable to access appropriate healthcare services, the survey showed.
Drug addiction is a complex neurobiological disease that requires integrated treatment of the mind, body, and spirit. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain — they change its structure and how it works. Without treatment, these brain changes can be long-lasting. Addiction is chronic, it is progressive, and if left untreated, it can be fatal. Individuals struggling with drug addiction often feel as though they cannot function normally without their drug of choice. This can lead to a wide range of issues that impact professional goals, personal relationships, and overall health. Over time, these serious side effects can be progressive, and if left untreated, fatal. Drugs are classified in a number of ways. Many are potentially addictive and harmful. Examples of illegal drugs include Heroin; Cocaine or crack cocaine; Methamphetamine; Bath Salts; Methadone; Ecstasy; Marijuana; LSD; Mushrooms; PCP etc.
Addiction is a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm. The term addiction does not only refer to dependence on substances such as heroin or cocaine. A person who cannot stop taking a particular drug or chemical has a substance dependence. Some addictions also involve an inability to stop partaking in activities, such as gambling, eating, or working. In these circumstances, a person has a behavioural addiction. Addiction is a chronic disease that can also result from taking medications. The overuse of prescribed opioid painkillers, for example, causes 115 deaths every day in the United States. When a person experiences addiction, they cannot control how they use a substance or partake in an activity, and they become dependent on it to cope with daily life. Every year, addiction to alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and prescription opioids costs the U.S. economy upwards of $740 billion in treatment costs, lost work, and the effects of crime. Most people start using a drug or first engage in an activity voluntarily. However, addiction can take over and reduce self-control.
It is important to note that, misuse refers to the incorrect, excessive, or non-therapeutic use of body- and mind-altering substances. However, not everybody that misuses a substance has an addiction. Addiction is the long-term inability to moderate or cease intake. For example, a person who drinks alcohol heavily on a night out may experience both the euphoric and harmful effects of the substance. However, this does not qualify as an addiction until the person feels the need to consume this amount of alcohol regularly, alone, or at times of day when the alcohol will likely impair regular activities, such as in the morning. A person who has not yet developed an addiction may be put off further use by the harmful side effects of substance abuse. For example, vomiting or waking up with a hangover after drinking too much alcohol may deter some people from drinking that amount anytime soon. Someone with an addiction will continue to misuse the substance in spite of the harmful effects.
Many people don’t understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to. Fortunately, researchers know more than ever about how drugs affect the brain and have found treatments that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive lives. In general, people take drugs for a few reasons:
- To feel good. Drugs can produce intense feelings of pleasure. This initial euphoria is followed by other effects, which differ with the type of drug used. For example, with stimulants such as cocaine, the high is followed by feelings of power, self-confidence, and increased energy. In contrast, the euphoria caused by opioids such as heroin is followed by feelings of relaxation and satisfaction.
- To feel better. Some people who suffer from social anxiety, stress, and depression start using drugs to try to feel less anxious. Stress can play a major role in starting and continuing drug use as well as relapse (return to drug use) in patients recovering from addiction.
- To do better. Some people feel pressure to improve their focus in school or at work or their abilities in sports. This can play a role in trying or continuing to use drugs, such as prescription stimulants or cocaine.
- Curiosity and social pressure. In this respect, teens are particularly at risk because peer pressure can be very strong. Teens are more likely than adults to act in risky or daring ways to impress their friends and show their independence from parents and social rules.
Tackling the problem of unemployment in the country is relevant to reducing the menace of drug addiction among the youth in our society. According to a recent World Bank statistics, youth unemployment rate in Nigeria is 68%, but realistically, 80% of Nigerian youths are unemployed with secondary school graduates mostly found among unemployed rural population accounting for about half of this figure, while Universities and Polytechnic graduates make up the figure. What seems to be more worrisome is the fact that the nation’s Universities and Polytechnics continue to churn out more than 150,000 graduates both Bachelor’s degrees and Higher National Diploma annually and job creation has been inadequate to keep pace with the expanding working-age population. Thus, idleness among youth could easily make drug addiction a fascinating option. Perhaps, more importantly, parents must spend time to inculcate moral values in their children. Undue struggles for economic survival should not be a justification for parents to neglect their natural role in the proper upbringing of their children. Of what essence is a family’s financial solidity if the children are not properly brought up? It is only when parents spend ample time with their children that they could really notice negative vices and in traits in them and quickly nips such in the bud.
Similarly, public enlightenment campaigns on the harmful effects of drug addiction must be stepped up by relevant government agencies, NGO, Faith-Based Organizations, community leaders, traditional rulers, etc. Ignorance remains a major factor in drug addiction and so relevant stakeholders must continue to enlighten the youth on the evils of drug addiction and trafficking. Indeed, schools could include drug-related issues in their curriculum. It is imperative that younger ones are taught the dangers that drug addiction poses to their health and future before they are exposed to peer influence in later years. Also, the NDLEA and other similar law enforcement agencies must step up the clampdown on the production and illicit trafficking of banned substances. As long as these substances remain in circulation, the youths will always be tempted into consuming them. Additionally, the NDLEA can equally increase the pulse of its efficiency through the deployment of technological devices that can boost its seamless detection of hard drug dealers or users.
It is rather worrisome that drug addicts are mostly youth. This should be a source of great concern to everyone. This is why pro-health campaigns across the country should majorly be youth-related and multi-sectoral in approach. Given the enormity of the damage of drug addiction to mankind, no effort should be spared to curb its menace, that is why the federal government has banned some drugs and step up advocacy in this regard.
*** Written by Jide Ayobolu