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Train law enforcers to tackle youths on drug abuse, experts advise

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The need to enhance the knowledge of law enforcement agencies about mental health and effective drug response strategies will help curb illicit drug use among the young population, experts have advised.

Speaking at a webinar organised by the Charis Healthcare and Community Support Initiative, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Jos, Obindo Taiwo, said it is critical to expanding access to affordable drug treatment services by increasing the number of facilities, enhancing the geographical spread of such facilities and reducing the cost of care.

The professor cautioned against criminalising drug use and called for a collaborative relationship between the criminal justice system administrators and the health care service providers.

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He restated the urgent need to pass a mental health and substance abuse bill pending before the National Assembly and urged the government to subsidize the cost of mental healthcare and provide more facilities for rehabilitation.

Obindo also cautioned against the incarceration of drug users, saying the outcome of such action could be healthy.

He said: “Besides the malady of being unjustifiably detained or imprisoned, the prison environment is the unhealthiest place for correction. More often than not, the environment is rife with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV); Hepatitis A, B and C/other sexually transmitted infections; tuberculosis disease infection including multi-drug resistant strains; scabies and head lice among others.

The prison standards (including the provision of basic amenities) are usually low in most countries.

He added that in the prisons, risk behaviours such as injecting drug use and sharing of injecting equipment are prevalent. These, he said, result in a higher rate of infections in the prisons than the general population.

Dr. Aishatu Armiya’u of the Psychiatry Forensic Psychiatry Unit, Jos University Teaching Hospital, explained that drug abuse is a mental health disorder and that it is found in both diagnostic protocols.

She maintained that individuals with substance use disorder are to be seen as patients who require treatment and not criminals to be punished. She insisted that even when drug abusers are incarcerated, they have rights, which must be respected.

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In this article:
Drug AbuseObindo Taiwo
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