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Group raises concern over drug abuse, harps on reduction strategies

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The Society for the Improvement of Rural People (SIRP), yesterday, expressed concern over the rising cases of drug abuse in the country and charged law enforcement agencies to stop dehumanising drug addicts, but devise means of rehabilitating them.

It insisted that treating drug addicts, as criminal had not solved the problem, lamenting that there was a growing trend involving younger generation of Nigerians who have taken to drugs.

SIRP stated that about 14.3 million Nigerians were addicted to various drugs and that of the figure, 10.6 persons use Indian hemp, while 4.6 million others use opioids, adding that the group had continued to administer free medical services for drug dependents in Nigeria.

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Speaking at a training workshop organised for law enforcement officers in Enugu by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) with support from European Union (UN), it lamented that the way drug dependents were handled by security officers was encouraging the trend.

Programme Manager of SIRP, Evelyn Joseph, told participants at the workshop titled, “Sensitisation on Drugs and Drug Prevention, Treatment and Care” that it discovered that a lot of criminalisation, stigmatisation and arrests were regularly carried out on drug users.

“We don’t think that is the best way of solving the problem. The practice has always been that when a drug user is found with say cannabis, the next thing the authorities do is to arrest and detain them. Most of the detained drug users become worse when they stay in detention longer and are eventually released.

“Instead of harassing and arresting them because they are in possession of one drug or the other, they should be referred to places where they can get help and that will help to reduce the prevalence of drug users in Nigeria,” she said.

She also raised concern over the alarming rate in the number of persons, especially young ones who now indulge in drug abuse.

“It is even more disturbing that the current practice and stigmatisation has not helped in dissuading people from using drugs and that is why we must seek better ways to handle them. Our young ones are vulnerable and we don’t want them to end their lives in correctional centres,” she added.

She said between 2018 and 2019, the group registered no fewer than 1,615 cases in Enugu State alone, of which 680 were recovering, adding that treatment of drug dependents does not usually yield immediate results.

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