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Drug addiction among the youth: A ticking time bomb

By Godwin Ijediogor, Samson Ezea, Tobi Awodipe, Maria Diamond and Henry Ekemezie
07 April 2018   |   3:47 am
It is not unusual these days to see youths, especially in the cities, on campuses, clutching a “bottle of water” as they move around town. For some, it could be a PET bottle of any of the popular soft drinks, while others carry theirs in the regular water bottles. Most times, the more you look,…

Director General, NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye

It is not unusual these days to see youths, especially in the cities, on campuses, clutching a “bottle of water” as they move around town.

For some, it could be a PET bottle of any of the popular soft drinks, while others carry theirs in the regular water bottles.

Most times, the more you look, the more you discover that these are not ordinary water therein. Most of them are concoctions, mixture of different drugs and substances. They are stimulants.

A few days ago, Nigerians woke up to the news that a young man, Kenneth, overdosed and died of ‘Omi Gutter’ (Gutter water) at a hotel in Ikorodu. He developed seizures and was rushed to the General Hospital where he passed away.

Kenneth’s story unfortunately is nothing new these days. Every other day, news filter in of a young girl or boy overdosing and dying from yet another concoction, designed to do only one thing- wreck untold havoc on the body system.

Last December, President Buhari took to his personal twitter handle to address the rising cases of drug abuse in the country, especially amongst the youths, promising to “go after and punish those who sell and distribute these illicit substances.”

Four months after this promise was made, the drug problem is even worse than ever.

Drug and substance abuse is not a new phenomenon and has been on the rise over the past few years, but has recently gotten worse. From Lagos to Enugu to Kano, daily, millions of bottles of codeine, sachets of tramadol, valium, refnol and rohypnol are consumed with ease by youths across the states.

Findings by The Guardian revealed that no two users have the same reason they went into drugs in the first place, but a common denominator was the desire to experiment or out of curiosity. Others were influenced by their peers, spousal or parental neglect, psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety, grief, trauma, the need for extra sexual strength and stamina, the euphoria or easy availability of these drugs, to enhance work or school performance, cope with academic pressure, alleviate hunger, reduce physical or emotional pain, fend off sleep, help to induce sleep, or even to lose weight.

Some others said they started out of boredom, the need to forget problems, financial issues/joblessness, strength to work harder for longer and so on. Kabiru Moshood is a young casual labourer in Ikorodu.

He moves around looking for any form of work to do to get paid, from daily labour to brick- laying to grass cutting, nothing is beyond his capabilities.

“Because of this type of work I’m doing, I feel body pains and headache, so I use tramadol and other drugs to get relief.”

However, even on the days when he is not doing any work, he takes the concoctions thrice daily, “to keep up,” he says. He has become addicted to the drugs and cannot stay away from them for more than a few hours at a time.

It’s no surprise that the rates of substance abuse and dependence are highest among people aged 12-38. Even young children are not exempted as children in primary and secondary schools have become addicts.

Getting these drugs is not only very easy; most are cheap and cost little, while some are free. The Guardian’s reporter bought 500mg of Tramadol and Lexotan tablets for less than N500 at Oshodi in the course of filing this report.

Lexotan and Valium can only be bought with a doctor’s prescription, but you don’t need one when you are buying at Oshodi or any of the other illegal spots all over Lagos and other parts of the country.

On public mass transit buses popularly called Tata or Molue, Tramadol is openly sold for as little as N100 per sachet. The popular drugs are Tramadol (also called TM or Trams), Lexotan, Valium, Cannabis, Codeine, D5, Refnol, Marijuna (also called MJ or Mary Jane), Cocaine (Coke for short), heroin, methamphetamine (crystal meth), Rohypnol (also known as the ‘date rape pill’) and Viagra (‘the blue pill’). Meth, heroin and coke are pricey so they are usually not taken alone but serve as a mixer.

The cheap and free ones include Premium Motor Spirit (Petrol), kerosene, araldite adhesives, gum, nail polish, rubber patchwork solutions stolen from roadside vulcaniser shops, standing over pit latrines to inhale the ammonia smell, soaking pieces of cloth in sewage, lizard dung or any other source of ammonia, sniffing putrid gutter water or soak away pits and even sniffing exhaust pipes of generators.

It is not uncommon to see young boys and men walking the streets, whip out a piece of cloth, curl it around one of their fists to inhale intermittently, looking lost to the world. Those pieces of cloth are not handkerchiefs, they are usually laced with something or the other.

However, cobwebs in water is a new one. ‘High’ seekers sweep off dirty cobwebs, drench it in a bowl of water so the toxins get into the water and drink it.

Omi Gutter (gutter water) is a deadly combination of codeine, refnol, tramadol, cannabis and water/juice/yoghurt.

Skoochies/Skushis was derived from Monkey tail and a sip of this lethal combination can land any normal person in a nearby hospital. The red coloured drink is made by mixing gin, fresh lime juice, cranberry juice/zobo, tramadol, refnol and the juice from boiled marijuana and is sold from anything between N500-5000, depending on where you buy it.

However, the new wave as it is called, is a mixture of several items. There are three types under the new wave. The first is methylated spirit mixed with a Cola drink/juice or Vodka and Codeine mixed with Sprite.

The second is called Lacatomtom, a mixture of Tramadol and TomTom inside a bottle of Lacasera or MM/MSquared, which is malt mixed with Knorr/Maggi seasoning cubes.

The third, a lethal combination known as Jiko, is a mixture of tramadol, codeine and flunitrazepam (benzodiazepine) in a base of Hollandia yoghurt.

The common signs of drug abuse include changes in eating habits, mood swings or a change in attitude, change in sleep patterns, slurred speech, sudden change in friends, lack of personal care, tremor in the hands and feet, bloodshot eyes, unexplained need for money, excessive need for privacy and identifying with drug culture, seizures, confusion, agitation, rigid muscles, lack of coordination, mental illness, constant health problems, respiratory issues and absentmindedness.

The Lagos PRO for the National Agency for Food, Drug, Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the body responsible for regulating drugs in the country, Christy Obiazikwor, told The Guardian that they are working round the clock to arrest the sale and distribution of these drugs.

“Just recently, the Agency, through a tip-off, arrested a trailer-load and two trucks containing Tramadol Hydrochloride 200, 225 and 250mg (different makers), Sildenafil Citrate tablets as well as Diclofenac Sodium Capsules. The people involved were arrested and investigation is ongoing to unravel the owners and those behind the drugs.”

“We also go on regular raids and our most recent raid in Agege, based on intelligence reports, unearthed a medicine store filled with illegal drugs hidden in the roof and under the floor as well as in different corners.

The drugs we carted away include Rohypnol tablets (Flunitrazepam), Tramadol, Diazepam tablets, Postinor 2 tablets (Levonorgestrel), Talen tablets (Bromazepam), Cough ‘N’ Cold Syrup with Codeine, Cofmix with Codeine, Emzolyn with Codeine, Hypnox tablets, Valinex-5 tablets, Richcof with Codeine, Codrux with Codeine, Tutolin with Codeine, Lara and Really Extra tablets (Paracetamol, Diclofenac, and Caffeine combination).”

“In our raid in Yaba, the suspect we arrested with Rohypnol, different brands of Tramadol and several brands of cough syrups with codeine, who has been arrested severally in the past in connection with the sale of dangerous drugs, confessed that his biggest market was University students and the street urchins in the Yaba area.

He added that he buys from a licensed and registered Pharmaceutical company and the M.D of the company was arrested.”

“The user and abuser of these drugs get addicted or dependent on the drugs upon repeated use and this leads them into crime such as sexual abuse, robbery, murder and terrorism. Our findings show that most of the people that use the dugs are young people below 40 years old.  

Families have been destroyed and dreams lost as a result.

Recognition of the consequences is important to our young people, parents, teachers and law enforcement. Let us help our youth by discouraging them and reporting cases of abuse in our communities to save lives and families.”

Speaking on street hawkers, she admitted that though it is on the rise, the agency has commenced intensive raids and has arrested several hawkers and confiscated their wares.

“This exercise will be intensified until the agency completely dislodges them from the nooks and crannies of everywhere. The hawkers market dangerous products to the public and need to be stopped.”

‘Most Abused Drugs In Plateau Are Cannabis, Goskolo and Solution’

From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos

Mr. Ishaku Joshua is a parent in Plateau state. He identifies common drugs that destroy the future of the youths in the state to include Goskolo (local concoction), cannabis, inhaler (mixed substance inhaled to cause addition and enhancement performance) cough syrup, cigarette. He said those indulged in these drugs are within the age bracket of 12 to 30 years.

Joshua said that the most abused of the substances are cannabis, Goskolo and solution.

“They take these substances in order to make them hard. When they take them, they believe they can approach anyone no matter how big or small. Some take the substances to combat shyness.

The substances make them arrogant and give them false sense of protection and bravery. They don’t fear anything or anybody at all. They say they are charged and high like lions.”

On how the substances are purchased, Joshua said that youths have syndicates and hideouts.

“There are those who import, produce and sell to them at designated points. Sometimes, when they are in the midst of the uninitiated, the youths make signals among themselves by giving the substances unfamiliar names known to them only.

Apart from their hideouts, they also use uncompleted buildings, bush and residential areas that are sighted in exclusively private environment for only their members.

“If you are in their club, your mouth or lips will be black, eyes red and stagger walks always. They look tattered, emaciated and rough.”

According to him, those mostly involved are school drop-outs from primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, unemployed youths, peer groups, truck pushers, juveniles, conductors, mechanics, soldiers, police and other arms of the security.

Just few security operatives indulge in this to keep them fit and agile. They don’t misbehave.”

According to a preacher, Evangelist Jerry Dattim, substance abuse is what has finished this generation, adding that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is not monitoring them enough in that regard to curb the menace.

Dattim stressed that the substances change the youths’ behavior immediately, noting that three families were recently dealt with after the youths took the hard substance.

“One youth slaughtered his own sister while another youth attempted to murder his own mother. Another one macheted his father to death for refusing to give him money to buy the drugs.”

On how he believes these bad substances could be checked in the society, Dattim advised government to henceforth regulate the activities of the pharmacists in the country.

“These pharmacists always hide some of these dangerous drugs. You cannot get them on the shelf. When you go to their pharmacy, they will tell you to wait. After studying you for one minute and they are convinced that you are not a threat to their business, they will bring them out and sell to you,” he added.

He cited a first class graduate who has been destroyed by indulging in illicit substances, pointing out that he has a rehabilitation centre, stressing that when they are asked, they will be quick to blame their actions on unemployment.

But he said he would always tell them that even if there were plenty of white-collar jobs, not everybody could be employed because there are some university graduates who are not employable.

According to Jaman Pam Zi, a journalist, illicit drugs are the increasing cause of morbidity and mortality in the society despite efforts to curb their distribution and use. He mentioned also Goskolo where the illegal substances are unlawfully manufactured and sold to individuals and the unguided youths who are often used as foot soldiers whenever there is any conflict.

Zi added that the substances, when taken by the youths, make them behave in irrational manners without considering the consequences of their actions. He added that the high rate of crimes and criminality in the society could be traced to the heavy use of the substances.

According to him, “as part of efforts to curb the menace and complement the efforts of government, The Dialogue, Reconciliation Peace Centre, a non-profit, a non-governmental peace building founded since 2011 by the Catholic Archbishop of Jos, the Most Reverend Ignatius Kaigama, is set to sponsor a private bill to the Plateau State House of Assembly.”

Pam Zi added that the bill when passed into law, would restrict the production of illicit drinks, making it difficult for consumers to have access to the banned substances.

‘Drug Abuse Responsible For Rise In Petty Crimes, School Dropouts In Sokoto’

From Eric Meya, Sokoto

Drugs abuse in Sokoto State is mostly prevalent among the youths ranging from 13-30 years of age.

The drugs/substances frequently abused include Cannabis also known as Indian hemp, cough syrups containing Codeine, Maysedyl with Codeine, Panpiden, Tramadol and Rhypnol among others.

The trend is said to be responsible for the rise in petty crimes and growing number of school dropouts as users are usually prone to abnormal and violent behaviour.

Alarmed by the development, the Sokoto State Government, in collaboration with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and NAFDAC has set up a task force to counter the practice of illegal drug use.

In an address to a recent international workshop on the problems of illicit drug use crisis in the country, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said efforts by governments at the federal, state and local levels to address the situation have not produced the desired result.

He asked stakeholders to support the banning of the use of codeine in cough preparations as an option to limit the circulation of that product in our schools, high institutions, homes and among the general public.

According to him, the task force has a standing monthly allocation of N500,000 and a dedicated vehicle to conduct activities according to the National Drug Control Master Plan, strategic objectives of law enforcement, drug demand reduction and availability, access and control of narcotics drugs and  psychotropic substances for medical purposes.

Pharmacists Undergo Training In Rivers On How To Rehabilitate Drug Addicts

From Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt)

There are intensified efforts to fight drug abuse in Rivers State considering its deadly effects to the society and human lives.

Findings by The Guardian revealed that these drugs are usually sold at hidden places and not in the open market, because of its dangers and as it is against the law. 

Also, it was learnt that the substances are mostly used by criminals, kidnappers, killers, while some under-aged persons are ignorantly lured into the act.

Speaking with The Guardian, the Public Relations Officer of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Rivers State Command, Mr. Emmanuel Ogbumgbada, explained that drug abuse has three major effects- physical, psychological and socio- economical.

According to him: “The physical effect affects the health condition of the abuser as he or she develops different health diseases like kidney, lungs and liver diseases, while in the social economic effect, the abusers  make the society become volatile such as increase in armed robbery.

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