Addressing drug abuse
A few years ago, I visited a rehabilitation center for drug addicts in Ikorodu, Lagos. It is a place where young women and men are being helped to be liberated from the shackles and pains of drug addiction so they could live and enjoy more dignified and fruitful lives.
What I saw on that particular occasion was quite distressing.
I saw young men and women in an excruciating state of emotional and psychological turmoil. Here were once vibrant and dynamic chaps, but now almost on the verge of becoming a wasted generation.
From what one observed on that fateful day, their road to recovery is not by any means straightforward. It requires bravery, dedication as well as empathy of committed counselors.
Ironically, the young men and women that I saw at the rehabilitation center still have to thank their stars for good fortune.
Across the globe, there are millions of their kind whose lives have been effectively dominated by the evil of drug abuse and are, thus, thoroughly hopeless about what the future actually holds for them.
Drug abuse has become one of the major issues that constitute a great danger to the present world order. It is the primary reason why many youths are incarcerated, as well as a source of crime and health problems.
It has become such an unprecedented problem in Nigeria that the number of youths incarcerated in various prisons across the country has increased dramatically over the last few decades. As a matter of fact, the majority of these youths have been arrested for drug-related offenses, and/or have a drug abuse problem.
Some of the factors contributing to this arrest are the public awareness of the danger in drug abuse and the “war on drugs” declared by the Federal Government, using various agencies like the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) etc.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has, over the years, been actively involved in launching campaigns to mobilize support for drug control. The UNODC often teams up with other organizations and encourages people in society to actively take part in these campaigns.
The drug abuse and drug trafficking indicator across the world is quite awful. For instance, data from AUNODC reveals that almost 200 million people are using illicit drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, hallucinogens, opiates, and sedative-hypnotics globally.
Likewise, drug trafficking has developed into a foremost hazard to the health and security of people and nations across the globe. Indeed, there is a strong link between drug abuse and a rising wave of terrorism across the world.
It has, for instance, been revealed that the $61 billion annual markets for Afghan opiates is funding insurgency and global terrorism. In West Africa, the $85 billion global cocaine trade worsens addiction and money-laundering, political instability and insecurity.
Ironically, lots of money is involved in this criminal business. For every $1 billion of unadulterated cocaine that is trafficked through West Africa, more than ten times as much is earned when it is sold in the European market.
The reality, thus, is that we are talking about a business that involves huge amounts of money and as such might be very difficult to eliminate except appropriate strategies and political will are exerted by relevant stakeholders.
Drug trafficking and drug abuse are interrelated evils and must be tackled as such. Drug trafficking and abuse have led to increases in criminal activities, violence, corruption, destruction of individuals, families and communities and the undermining of national economies.
In Africa, of late, concerns are rife over drug abuse, especially among the youth. Years ago, such worries were almost nonexisting. However, a radical change seems to have taken place over the years when illegal trafficking and abuse of drugs silently crept into society.
There has been a dramatic acceleration of this trend during the past 20 years. Apprehension over abuse of hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine is even more recent, starting about 15 years ago in some African countries and increasing to absorb more countries in the last 5 years.
There is a consensus of opinion that this new trend was preceded and accompanied by a steady and unavoidable erosion of traditional social fabric and values. The African family, recognized in its extended form, occupied a primate and central position in this social system.
Sadly, however, this system is disintegrating. Social disintegration is also accelerating under the adverse influences of growing poverty, civil war, tribal conflicts, droughts and other natural catastrophes which leads to famine and massive displacement of populations, creating a situation in which drug abuse worsens rapidly.
As the world grapples with the menace of drug abuse and allied matters, it is important to stress, especially for the youth who are deeply ensnared by the evil habit, that breaking the addiction is the only way to triumph over the problems of abuse.
Parents, religious and community leaders, as well as educational institutions, can make a huge difference in stemming the tide of drug abuse and trafficking in our nation. Parents, in particular, need to spend more time with their children and properly tutor them on the danger that illegal use or sale of illicit drugs constitutes to their future.
All stakeholders in the war against drug abuse must constantly draw global attention to the significance of addressing the menace. Governments at all levels have a task to counteract both drug trafficking and drug abuse, but communities can also make a major contribution.
As earlier stated, families, schools, civil society and religious organizations have a part to play in ridding society of the nuisance of drugs. The Private sector could help in providing legitimate livelihoods for the youth who have come to depend on drug trafficking as a source of income. The media equally has a role to play in raising awareness about the threat of living a drug-dependent life.
Realistically, the task of checkmating drug abuse and illicit trafficking in drugs is quite enormous. But then, huge success can be attained if all stakeholders across the world reinforce their commitment to tackling this twin evil.
The stark reality of the havoc that drug abuse could unleash on the world, if not properly checked, calls for urgent actions among all world stakeholders.
Hence, it is essential to lay emphasis on the need for a concerted global onslaught against the nuisance of drug abuse and illicit trafficking in the world.
Ogunbiyi is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.