On many occasions, concerned citizens have expressed worry about the pronouncement of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) that more than 20 million Nigerians youths abuse drugs.
They also raise alarm on the United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC) reports that indicate a troublesome trend of drug abuse among the Nigerian youth.
According to UNODC, Nigeria has one of the highest drug prevalence in West Africa, where it notes that drug use prevalence in the country among people from 15 years of age to 64 years is 14.4 per cent.
The office observes that this is almost three times the global world use prevalence of 5.5 per cent, implying that drug abuse is almost getting to an epidemic proportion.
In spite of this, some youths insist that they take hard drug to “fit’’ in, to feel “cool’’, feel “better’’ and get “high’’ to express themselves in public.
Others say they take into drug to impress and get attention whether in school or in their neighbouhoods.
Whatever reason adduced for drug-taking, psychologists observe that these practices could later turn the affected youth to addicts; making it difficult for them to get out of drug abuse.
But medical experts warn that substance-abusing youth are at higher risk of mental health problems, including depression, conduct problems, personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide and suicide, among others than non-users.
The move to curtail these repercussions of drug abuse has, somewhat, informed the intervention by Centre for Ethical Rebirth among Nigerian Youth (CERANY), a non-governmental organisation to organise a conference on drug abuse to sensitise the youth to the danger of hard drug use.
At the conference, retired Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa, emphasised on the imperative of urgent collaboration of federal government in curbing the menace.
He stated that the NDLEA has insight into the roles played by illicit substance in the equation of insecurity in the country, insisting that it has become imperative to look at the likely remote causes of drug abuse among youths.
The agency says Kano has the country’s highest drug abuse rate based on the number of seizures, arrests of addicts and convictions of arrested dealers.
The agency also notes that in the 80s, Nigeria used to be a transit point for drugs and there was an eminent stigmatisation of drug use that prompted users to hide their drug dependent habits.
It observes that the story has changed as Nigeria has gone from being a drug consuming nation to being a drug producing one and has assumed the position and destination for hard and illicit drugs.
“The society we live in seem to have cultivated the fact that drug use can be “cool’’ and as such, drug users openly boast about their habits and skills in taking psychoactive substances’’ an analysts also observes.
Marwa, therefore, noted that drug abuse is one of the factors fuelling insecurity, observing that gun and handcuffs for the offenders alone would not effectively solve the problem.
“I have said this at different fora, that there is a connection between drug use and the rise in criminality in this country, this may seems far-fetched to the average Nigerians, this is not a baseless assumption.
“Different categories of drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, heroin and psychotropic substance such as methamphetamine and tramadol are consumed and trafficked across the country,’’ he observed.
He said that the NDLEA had destroyed 18 methamphetamine manufacturing laboratories and several hectares of cannabis farms and that in five months, the agency had seized more than two million kilogrammes of assorted illicit drug.
“These developments should alarm us. We would not have such a huge amount of illicit substances circulating among the populace.
“If people take drugs, then you can expect proportional reactions from them, which are more often criminal, the more drugs you have circulating in the system, the more criminal actions to be expected,’’ he said.
Marwa said that the report of UNODC indicating that the country has one of the highest drug prevalence in West Africa, ought to be a concern for all.
“What is the implication of this? It means drug abuse is almost getting to an epidemic proportion.
“Our National Drug Use Survey in 2019 reveals that more than 10 million people abused cannabis in one year,’’ he observed.
He said that the agency had set up some mechanisms such as the Special Purpose Committee that draws a pool of stakeholders to join the NDLEA in advocacy against illicit drugs.
He also noted that he had been going all over the country to meet with opinion leaders, organisations, royal fathers, strategic institutions, religious and civil organisations to sensitise the people to the “fight-to-finish campaign’’ against drug trafficking.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Oliver Stolpe, UNODC Country Representative to Nigeria, noted that increasing abuse among youths could present a negative trend for the future of the youth and the country at large.
According to her, more worrisome is the involvement of women in hard drug use as one in every 10 drug users is a woman.
“Data collected around the globe suggest that this has elevated cases of Gender-Based Violence and there is need to take decisive action.
He, nonetheless, promised that UNODC would support federal government to pursue everlasting solution to arrest the menace of drug abuse in the country.
But Mr Abhay Thakur, Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, said that his country is taking a holistic approach in the fight against drug abuse in Nigeria.
Thakur said that the country’s national policy on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is based on its constitution’s directive principles.
He said that the principles directed states to bring about prohibition of the consumption, except for medicinal purposes.
“The government policy on the subject flows from this constitutional provision and is also guided by the international conventions,’’ he said.
According to him, the Indian Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act provides the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).
“Our apex national agency has the power to combat the drug menace, the mandate to control, regulate and monitor the manufacture, distribution, import, export, transportation and others any substance which the government may declare to be a controlled substance in the NDPS Act.
He noted that the statutory regime in India consequently covers drug trafficking, drug related assets and substances which could be used and the manufacturing of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance.
The envoy said that the country had taken a number of timely and decisive steps to address each and every aspect of the drug problem, including harsh drug control laws, committed workforce, training and dedicated programmes.
Also, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, the Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), stressed the need for stakeholders to work together towards eradicating drug abuse.
According to her, the problem of drug abuse should concern everybody and cooperations must be strengthened to decisively deal with it.
She noted that of all the crises facing the country, the federal government has given the highest priority to the problem of drug abuse.
The NAFDAC boss stated that the National Drug Use Survey of 2018 revealed that the highest-level drug use is among those “aged between 25 years and 39 years, the use of drugs for non-medical or recreational purpose is thus disturbingly common among young people’’.
She also agreed that drug abuse is a public health problem that has undermined national stability and security of the country, adding that the experience of NAFDAC showed that success in the war against drug had been adversely affected by corruption and unethical practices.
Adeyeye explained that the issue had resulted in laws not being enforced and criminals not being prosecuted or convicted of their crimes and that there was need to change the narrative.
According to her, the impact of drug abuse and the current reality makes it necessary to think about national security in terms of the corporate existence of the nation and its ability to protect and promote all that is considered important and valuable.
Adeyeye said that the menace of drugs is a threat without borders, and that everyone must be firm against criminals destroying the path to the future envisaged for the youth and the country.
Mr Chuks Akamadu, President of CERANY, therefore, enjoined the youth to do more by embarking on a serious campaign against the menace, stressing that bodies saddled with the responsibility of campaigning against drug abuse are already overwhelmed.
Akamadu said youths across the country should begin to realise that it was time for them to take ownership of the fight against drug abuse in the country.
“Drug abuse has created instability, insecurity and violence in the country; it must begin to dawn on the youth that there is need for them to take ownership of the fight against drug abuse and ensure that they redeem their future.
“The youth must have a new understanding and do the needful, stating that his organisation had begun to go round secondary schools and tertiary institutions to campaign against the scourge of drug abuse and urged the youth to embrace the idea’’, he said.
Beyond this, psychologists recommend for effective remedy for drug abuse, some steps ought to be taken among stakeholders, especially the parents.
They advise parents to know teen’s activities, pay attention to their whereabouts at all times, know their friends, educate them on the consequences of drug abuse and keep track of prescribed drugs.
According to them, prevention education, mentoring and other supervised activities for after-school hours, among others, will reduce youths’ involvement in drug abuse.
They also suggest effective rehabilitation for drug abuse victims to help them to achieve the highest level of function, independence and quality of life possible.
They note that although rehabilitation does not reverse or undo the damage caused by disease or trauma, it can restore the individual to optimal health, functioning and wellness.
All in all, concerned Nigerians note that regular enlightenment should be given to the public, particularly mothers on the heinous crimes of child abandonment.
They suggest further that governments should ban smoking in public places while culprits of drug abuse should be sentenced to jail or rehabilitation centres.