Curbing drug abuse by Nigerian youths
The subject of Drug abuse among the teeming youths in Nigeria has generated heated debate in recent time. Like a thunderbolt, it has attracted interest from different groups, organizations, individuals, government ministries and agencies including the National Assembly. The problem is much bigger than we can imagine, and we are probably waking up a little late in the day but certainly not too late. We will be deceiving ourselves to think or believe that the situation is limited by geography, gender, social status or age. Before 2013, Nigeria was only considered as a transit nation for illicit drugs but now; we are an internationally recognized user nation. We should be wary of the iceberg phenomenon or effect that this subject may present.
Drug abuse, according to Wikipedia, is a ‘patterned use of a drug in which the user consumes the substance in the substance in amounts or with methods which are harmful to themselves or others’. Whenever drugs, which are chemical substances, are used in manners that are not consistent with the prescribed standard, then abuse or misuse set in. The danger, however, is that drugs, in performing their roles in the body; tend to alter the physiological pattern of behavior of the system and if the exposure is prolonged, can lead to physical, psychological and physiological damage. Abuse of drug can lead to drug addiction (and drug dependence) and for ease of comprehension; they are both regarded as Drug Use Disorder.
Anyone can become a drug abuser and current information indicates that all ethnicities, social groups and genders can have drug abuse problems. It should be noted that drug abuse is not a character flaw but rather it is a medical condition that has developed over the time. There is no established fact that drug abuse runs in the family. However, there are theories (Personality, Learning, Biological or genetic and Social cultural), which tend to explain the predisposing factors. Apart from these theories, the causes of drug abuse, according to many sources, can be linked with factors including experimental curiosity, peer influence, parental influence, socio-economic conditions, extra energy requirements by youths engaged in hard prolonged labour at early ages, drug availability (ease of access) and the pain of withdrawal (withdrawal syndrome) which motivates further abuse.
The drugs that are commonly abused include but not limited to alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, inhalants, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, Methadone, oxycodone, Tramadol, codeine, Morphine, chemicals, cannabis or marijuana, opiates, heroin, stimulants like methamphetamines and cocaine, hallucinogens and many others. Drug use disorder is a common problem affecting about five per cent of the world population on the average and estimated eight per cent in the USA. In Nigeria, it was reported recently that about three million codeine containing cough preparations are consumed daily in Kano and about six million bottles in the Northwest.
The consequences of drug abuse are varied and devastating for the individuals involved, the family, nation and the international community. There are medical problems associated with drug abuse, which include mental disorder, liver cirrhosis, lethargy, irritability, cardio-vascular disorders, etc. The social consequences are numerous: school dropout, cultism, violence, armed robbery, lawlessness, cultural disorientation, rape, assassinations, loss of productivity, etc. The cost to the society is humongous.
To combat this resurgent menace, a multi-dimensional approach is recommended which will involve: I) The Family: parents should create enough time to attend to the needs of their children and guide them properly to adulthood. The family size should be limited to reflect the socio-economic status for a total well-being. Ii) The Community/Religious groups: The leaders should take active part in resolving the crisis at hand and help to prevent further occurrences through their utterances and action and keep the family unit intact. There should be effective communications and may be the time has come for the setting up of ‘Drug abuse vigilante groups’ for early detection and containment iii) Youth Groups: To positively use peer pressure to move their colleagues away from drug abuse and prevent new cases from occurring iv) Government: Should urgently empower the relevant agencies with adequate funding to discharge their duties appropriately and the agencies made to be alive to their responsibilities. Government must ensure that the drug distribution system is sanitized and access to dangerous drugs is severely restricted. Everybody involved in the handling of drugs must be brought under regulatory control. The economy must be stimulated to provide jobs for the unemployed and underemployed. An alternative means of engagement (example through sports) must be provided to take the youths out of the street v) Professional and trade groups:
Everybody must be involved in the efforts to educate the youths and limit the availability of drugs to professionals only. The Pharmaceutical Industry comprising of all the manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers have a big role to play. They must be extra vigilant in the handling of sensitive drugs that are prone to abuse by youths.
Drug abuse is a self-destructive indulgence that leads to significant problems and distress. It has suddenly assumed an alarming proportion among youths in Nigeria and could get worse if care is not taken. We must do something now to stem the tide before it brings calamity on our society.
*Lolu Ojo is a consultant pharmacist and Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (FPSN)