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Curbing drug abuse among youths with constant sensitisation, counselling

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Drug abuse. PHOTO: BBC


In recent times, news of substance abuse among youths and adults has continued to filter out from virtually every part of the country.For instance, not long ago, a teenager, who was an apprentice vulcaniser gave up the ghost after taking an undisclosed number of Tramadol tablets and sniffing rubber gum. He was reported to have died instantly.

This was after a Junior Secondary School (JSS) student in Ohafia, Arochukwu Local Council of Abia State, also lost his life after he allegedly took 10 tablets of Tramadol to enhance his performance during his school’s inter-house sports competition, where he was billed to compete. He died shortly after taking the drugs.

As the menace of drugs abuse in the country gets worse by the day, sensitive substances that should never be toyed with are finding their way into the hands of many, causing immense damage in the society. One of those deeply saddened by the malaise caused by unregulated access to drugs by students is associate professor of Counseling Psychology and Head, Department of Educational Foundation, University of Lagos, Dr. Nwadigbo Ikechukwu.

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Ikechukwu, who told The Guardian in an interview that drug intake seems to be the current craze among students, including undergraduates, linked drug abuse in the country to stress and difficulties that comes with surviving in the country.The guidance and counseling expert said: “One of the reasons why youths take hard drugs is the easy availability of these drugs, which they believe would help them to forget the stress and difficulties they are facing.”

He pointed out that one of the best ways of stemming more youths from foraying into the sad venture is “through sensitisation; telling them about the dangerous effects that hard drug consumption has on them, and also letting them know that taking drugs will just make them forget their problems for a short while, but would never solve them. They must be made to understand that facing their problems headlong is what would bring about expected solutions.”

The university lecturer further added that we can wean our youths, who are already into drugs, “by trying to find out their reasons for venturing into such habit. Once this is done, counselors should try and tackle these reasons because different people have different reasons for venturing into different things. Sadly, some youths often justify binging on drugs by pointing at certain celebrities that are also into drugs. It is easy to hear them say, if this person can take drugs why can’t I?”He advised tertiary institutions to set up counseling services where students can share their problems with professionals that have capacity to steer them in the right direction.

“Universities should try and set up counseling units, where their students can talk to professionals about their problems and also get good advice. In UNILAG here, the present vice chancellor has set up intervention counseling programmes in different faculties, where students are free to release their pent-up stress in a healthy way, instead of resorting to drug abuse. By so doing, affected students are reached out to and re-empowered.”On what parents can do to help in winning the fight against drug abuse among undergraduates, he said, “parents should learn to communicate with their children effectively; they should not just see themselves as parents only, but also as friends to their children.”

He equally encouraged them to start inculcating in the children early, the essence of a responsible living, stressing that they have a role to play in living healthy, responsible lives in future.“Young people should know that what they do today would definitely affect what they become tomorrow. They should equally understand what being responsible and what healthy living is all about. They should get themselves good mentors, who will guide them properly, and they should know that they have a responsibility to be responsible.

“Government on its part needs to lead in the re-orientation of youths on the importance of education, while young people themselves do not necessarily have to look up to celebrities as models because sometimes their public lives is always different from private lives. A clinical psychologist, Dr. Passy Amaraegbu, wants a lot of attention paid to the increasing use of destructive drugs in the society, stressing that even primary school students have the tendency to be involved in hard drugs abuse if not properly counselled.

Like Ikechukwu, Amaraegbu wants universities to do their best in counseling undergraduates on the need to stay clean because of the dire consequences of dabbling into substance abuse.“The university system is a complex one mainly because at this stage the level of supervision is limited. So what universities can do to help reduce drug abuse is to organise enlightenment programmes, where professionals are given time to speak on the dangers of drug abuse, and other specialists brought in to give counseling services, and shed light on the effects of drugs abuse.

“Also, universities should put in place functional medical and counseling centres because drug addiction involves not just the body, but the soul and spirit. A typical drug addict looks like someone that is suffering from HIV/AIDS, especially at the stage where they prefer to swap food for drugs. These centres would obviously help in detoxifying the poisons that these addicts have filled their systems with. It does not just end there as a lot still needs to be done in order to take care of the physical, the emotional and mental needs of students that are into substance abuse.”

Amaraegbu, who said that universities can also partner with religious organisations to provide spiritual guidance to students that have been led astray, described “hard drugs as a monster that fights tooth and nail to keep its prey once it pounces on it.“I was opportune to meet drug addicts when I was an intern at Yaba Psychiatric Hospital, and if you listen to the lies these guys tell just so they can have access to drugs, you will understand the depth of the malaise in our society. If an addiction causes a man to use money meant for baby formula to purchase substance to abuse, then you can only be left to appreciate the level of decay.”

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He advised parents to be good role models to their children stressing that, “parents should model their lifestyles before their kids. In other words, they should show good example by making sure that they are not involved in any form of drug addiction. Once they show good example, monitor and supervise their children, and screen the kind of company they keep, a lot would have been achieved in the area of sensitisation.

He encouraged youths to mind the kind of company they keep saying: “Young people should make a personal decision to be careful; decide to be in charge of their lives, as well as, decide to be responsible for themselves, their parents and others who are looking up to them. If they find out they were tricked into taking drugs, they should be bold enough to tell what we call their “significant others,” which include their parents, and other family members who can help them at the initial stage.

He also cautioned young people against choosing celebrities as their mentors because according to him, “most of the things young people see on screen are unrealistic; they should instead choose mentors who have moral fortitude because any kind of achievement that anyone has without character will not last. Young people should also realise that all that glitters is not gold. By taking these and other steps, we will be able reduce drug abuse among youths.”


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Drug Abuse
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