Parents’ role in war against drug abuse
“Drugs are the enemies of ambition and hope, and when we fight against drugs we are fighting for the future.” – Bob Riley
“Having 14.3 million Nigerians abusing drugs, with 10.6 million addicted to cannabis portends grave consequences”. —Gen. Buba Marwa, Chairman/CEO, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)
The increasing menace of hard drug trafficking and the attendant addiction to them, especially by the youth in Nigeria should be a source of great concern to us all; not the least the parents of all the culprits of both evil practices. While it is gratifying that the retired Brigadier–General Buba Marwa-led National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), has been welding the magic wand, to stem the swirling tide of the heinous crimes against humanity, since early 2021 it cannot do it all alone.
With empirical evidences on ground, the Silverbird Special Achievement Award 2021 conferred on Marwa, is well deserved. As he rightly noted the achievements of the agency in the last one year remains the best in 30 years. For instance, a total of 12,306 suspects, including seven barons were arrested in the last one year. 1,400 offenders were convicted of offences of drug peddling while 1,502 cases were left pending in courts. Over 3.4 million kilograms of assorted drugs and related cash worth over N130 billion were seized last year. Frightening figures, aren’t they?
Of course, they are and seriously troubling. The agency’s series of interceptions and seizures of cocaine and heroin at the MMIA includes “what stands today as the biggest single seizure from an individual in 15 years, which is 26.840kg of cocaine smuggled from Brazil in January, 24.05 kg of heroin in April, 27.95 kg of cocaine in May and 26.15kg of Heroin also in May 2021.
And that ugly incident brings to mind the bold topic that came to the fore at the Second Annual Seminar of Bells University Parents Forum (BUPF), in Ota, Ogun State. That was in 2014. Not only was the thematically relevant issue, thought-provoking, as it was aptly delivered by Dr. Dokun Adedeji, a medical expert and the CEO of Mind Trials Limited but it focused attention on the significant roles parents and lecturers could play in mitigating the scourge.
But first, the parents have to know more about what hard drugs are all about. While noting that a drug is any chemical other than food or water, which affects the way and manner consumers think, feel, see and behave, its abuse has serious implications for both the consumers and the larger society. Indeed, it could affect the individual cognitively and physically. Addiction to any hard drug simply means that the user can no longer function in the absence of these drugs. The common ones include Indian hemp, cocaine and heroin.
According to NAFDAC (2000) and Haladu (2003), stimulants which are substances that directly act and stimulate the Central Nervous System include Hallucinogens-drugs that alter the sensory processing unit within the brain. They produce distorted perception, feeling of anxiety and euphoria, sadness and inner joy (cannabis, LSD). Narcotics are drugs which relieve pains and induce sleeping (heroin, codeine and opium).
Sedatives are among the most widely used and abused. This is due to the belief or perception that they relieve stress and anxiety, and some of them induce sleep, ease tension, cause relaxation or help users to forget their problems (valium and alcohol). On their part, Tranquilizers produce calmness without inducing drowsiness (librium, valium etc). Apart from these there a group of volatile solvents or inhalants that produce euphoria, emotional dis-inhibition and perpetual distortion of thoughts (glues, spot removers, perfumes).
Globally, between 102,000 and 247,000 died from drug overdose in 2011 alone (UNODC). Though South Africa’s drug addiction was ranked as twice the world normal with 15 per cent of its citizens actively involved in its consumption, Nigeria was ranked as the 8th highest consumer of Indian hemp or cannabis. From NDLEA records cannabis accounted for 80 per cent of substance abuse in Nigeria. That was over a decade ago.
According to a 2013 study, 90 per cent of drugs abusers are teenagers and young adults between the age of 15 and 29. It means that these youths constitute a wasting generation. Inadvertently, the addict becomes a financial and social burden on his parents and the larger society. The victim is susceptible to criminal activities to raise all the huge funds needed to keep up the self-decimating habit in addition to reducing the country’s labour force.
According to Adedeji, an addicted person may show a decline in academic performance, frequently fail to attend classes, lose interest in school work and display weakened motor coordination, poor health and a lack of interest in old friendships. As for Haladu (2003) the causes of drug abuse include experimental curiosity, peer group influence, lack of parental supervision and personality problems due to socio-economic conditions. Other factors may include the need for energy to work for long hours, availability of drugs and the need to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Parents, primary, secondary and tertiary institution authorities should be on the lookout for presence of drugs and their paraphernalia like foil, rolling paper, mirror, straw and blade. They may also be in possession of actual drugs, seeds or leaves in ash-tray or on clothing. They should be conscious of odour of drug, smell of incense, use of strong perfumes and strong menthol sweets to dampen or obscure smell. Establish and nurture good relationship with their children. Lead by example.
To curb with the menace of hard drugs parents must allocate quality time, to be there for their children. They must discard the know-it-all attitude. It is necessary to allow for heart-to-heart discussions before decisions are taken or foisted on family members. Parents too should have open mind to seek more knowledge about contemporary issues affecting young people.
Parents of drug addicts should seek professional help from qualified medical personnel when necessary and not be high handed or exact harsh punitive measures that could harden the hearts of the victims.
Instead, they should be compassionate and provide the strong shoulders for them to lean on. The Guidance and Counseling Officer should seek relevant knowledge to address deviant cases and should encourage and accommodate self-disclosure by the student victims.
We all-parents, teachers and other students should avoid stigmatization of the addicts. They need help. That calls for drug advocacy within the educational institution as an open affair. If they ever find themselves in sticky situations they should ask for help as soon as possible to resolve all forms of conflict. There should be no room for experimentation; to even try the drugs at all.
Above all, the students themselves must come to terms with the fact they bear the primary and absolute responsibility for their lives, for as Donald Lyn Frost rightly noted: “drugs take you to hell, disguised as heaven.”
“Nobody in his right senses will wake up today and say he wants to kidnap 300 children if he is not under the influence of drugs. Now, criminals use ransoms for drugs. Criminality in Nigeria is fueled by drugs. It’s the role of the NDLEA, to stop drug peddling, even though some of these crimes, are fueled by poverty and unemployment.”