Firm partners NDLEA to improve mental wellbeing, curb drug abuse
I Choose Life Foundation has partnered with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA) to devise new strategies and research-backed methods to improve and de-stigmatise mental health conditions, as well as curb the alarming rate of drug abuse particularly among young Nigerians.
The agencies, proffered solutions to the issues at a summit held in Lagos, which was attended by the Chairman of the NDLEA, Buba Marwa, alongside other mental health professionals, policymakers, prominent mental health advocates, social celebrities, students and representatives of the media.
According to the coordinator, Chijioke Obioma, the summit was staged to chart a new course for the perception of mental health and drug abuse among young Nigerians, with a particular focus on the solutions prescribed by public and private issues responsible for the management of the issues.
He explained that the foundation targets young Nigerians between the ages of 14 and 25 in its campaign efforts based on studies that indicate that the bracket represents the primary stage of initiation, whether into vices or virtues as the case may be.
Obioma emphasised the need to ‘catch them young’ either as preventive intervention or early rehabilitation and re-integration into society.
In his address, the NDLEA Chairman, reiterated the agency’s goal of a drug-free nation through a combination of legal and sensitisation efforts to reduce demand and cut off supply.
He also highlighted the importance of socio-economic factors, including poverty and productive engagement, to mental health conditions and the tendency for drug usage.
According to Marwa, the agency’s comprehensive approach to achieving its goal can be found in the recently-passed National Drug Control Masterplan, which he said is likely to be formally launched before the end of the year.
He said the master plan contains a multi-agency and intergovernmental roadmap to “push and drive the agenda for drug control” with specified roles for the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, state governments, stakeholders and international agencies.
Marwa also emphasised the importance of strong and stable family units, vigilant and conducive communities, as well as quality educational system to stem drug abuse and produce responsible and well-rounded individuals.
He also highlighted the progress of the agency in breaking the supply chain of drug cartels in the country, with over 1000 convictions of illegal traffickers and suppliers in the year 2021 alone.
Similar to other speakers, the NDLEA boss urged an expansion of the agency’s budget to, among others, facilitate the construction and upgrade of rehabilitation centers and provide support and timely interventions in youth-populated areas such as school campuses.
Other speakers such as music celebrity Waje Iruobe noted the impact of peer pressure in the spread of substance abuse.
She described her journey from Benin City through Nsukka before finally arriving in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, where as an entertainment celebrity, she had to contend with pressure related to being in social circles where alcohol was routinely served.
David Olaranmi of the David Olaranmi Foundation told the harrowing story of how social relations in the United Kingdom altered the course of his life for about seven years when he was thrown into a world of drugs and exposed to addicts who went beyond the pale – including the sale of a four-day-old baby – to get a fix.
Founder of Zero Tolerance to Drug Abuse, Humphrey Julius, also shared his past struggle with cocaine addiction.
He highlighted a fundamental flaw in therapeutic treatments offered to victims in rehabilitation centers across the country by describing his situation where he was administered the same drug content he abused to fall asleep when suffering a cocaine-induced lack of sleep and restlessness.
The summit featured panel discussions and presentations from young mental health activists and representatives of agencies focused on mental health and curbing substance abuse.
Selected students and young advocates for mental health also delivered prepareed speeches and stage performances.