Drug exposure and saving youths from addiction
• In Plateau State, Goskolo Reigns
• Youths Now Inhale Gutter, Fuel And Glue
• Out of 10 Boys, Seven Abuse Drugs in Kano
As you approach Lateef Kamorudeen (field), a ghetto neighbourhood overlooking the road to Idimu, Lagos, there is a gigantic building, which seats on almost three plots of land. Opposite the building is the den for hemp smokers in Ejigbo. That’s where a group of young men often congregate to have cannabis communion. From the beginning of the road, you’ll start seeing them with rapped weed, smoking away what they call ‘earthly sorrow.’
Tajudeen is one of the regular congregants at this joint. You can never say whether he is normal or insane. But he is probably in between the two. His clothes are tattered and hair tousled. After smoking, he will sleep on the floor for hours, sometimes, partially naked.
If Taju is till hanging on to partial sanity, Lekan, a student went mad before his parents realised that it was his peers, who took him to Kamorudeen, where he was initiated into weed smoking.
Another young boy, Ozioma, lost focus and his admission to the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, suffered a setback, because of his involvement in weed. Thanks to the timely intervention of his parents, he was saved.
Though, the use of illicit drugs is not a new trend, it is growing at an alarming rate with more youths embracing it by the day. Drug abuse is gaining ground and young people, mostly boys and girls of secondary school age are getting more involved.
The Guardian gathered from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) that the most abused substances by youths in Nigeria are cannabis (Indian hemp), followed by amphetamines, and to a lesser extent, heroin and cocaine. Organic solvents are also becoming increasingly popular, especially, among street people. The latest craze, which probably started around 2010 and has become more popular in terms of abuse is, Codeine cough syrup.
For both organic solvents and multiple drug use, there seem to be greater prevalence in the rural than urban areas, while modes of drug intake are through smoking (cannabis), inhalation or sniffing (organic solvents, cocaine, heroin), chewing (local leaves or ‘Zakami’) and licking or swallowing (psychotropic drugs).
In Niger State, it is reported that the mostly abused drugs include, Librium, sukudia (suck and die), glue, solutions, petrol, gutter dirt, zakami, lizard dung, kwana tara, Arungumi zaki and Tsumi, while in Plateau State, it is Goskolo, a local concoction, which makes the user go mad. You will find a lot of the addicts around Angwan Rukuba down to Maza, Kabong and Gada Biu in Plateau State. Another hideout is called Angwan Shetan (Devil’s Street in Angwan Rukuba). These bad boys will be there, taking their drugs when other people have gone to work. You will see them with sachet water, as if they are just sipping from the ordinary pure water.
The Gbong Gwom Jos and the Chairman of Joint Traditional Council of Chiefs in the state, Da Jacob Gyang Buba and the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Jonah David Jang, over time, spoke on the consequences of taking this illicit substance, but to no avail.
When he was the governor, Jang went as far threatening to jail whoever was caught in the unholy business of preparing or selling of the concoction. But addicts were not deterred by his threat.
Kano has the country’s highest drug abuse rate based on the number of seizures, arrests of addicts and convictions of arrested dealers, according to the NDLEA. Over 37 per cent of the population is into drug abuse.
Kaduna, Katsina, Borno closely follow the state, and more recently, Niger State, are among states in the North with the highest cases of constant drug abuse in the country.
According to the former Director-General of the agency, Otunba Olarewaju Ipinmisho, “If you take an estimate of 10 boys particularly in Kano, seven will be on drugs. How then do we ascertain peace in such a place? This case is very frightening, because the boy taking drugs at home is as dangerous as the armed robber in the night. That is a murderer in waiting. And anyone who attempts to stop him should be ready to die, because he can kill to get his way.”
Experts have warned that the rate at which youth regale themselves in gangsterism, gambling, cultism, robbery and other anti-social activities brings to light the danger that awaits the country in the future, if not drastically checked. They note that the rate is very alarming, and thus, call for proactive measures to curtail the impending danger.
In 1998, the United Nations General Assembly in a special session on the global drug menace, acknowledged that drug abuse and its illicit trafficking is a global problem and issued a declaration to counter the threats posed by it. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was the outcome. June 26 of every year was equally set aside as international day against drugs and its illicit trafficking.
EXPERTS have blamed government’s inability to provide employment for the teeming youths as one of the reasons a lot of them are now doing drugs.
Ipinmisho said, “go to political rallies today and see what drugs are doing to the youth of this country. Particularly in the North, they have a lot to worry about when it comes to drugs. You will see young boys and girls openly inhaling and sniffing substances like fuel, and over-abusing drugs meant for other purposes, like tramadol and codeine, and smoking marijuana in the streets without care or fear of being arrested.”
Some of these dangerous drugs are both depressants and stimulants, making the users either to feel high (on top of the world) or low (below the sea level).
Findings reveal that family problems such as, broken homes (divorces), polygamy, abject poverty, cultural influence, parental neglect, lack of parental affection and responsibility also lead to drug addiction among youths. Anxiety, frustration and economic depression and social deprivation are equally linked to drugs abuse.
A pharmacist in Jos, Mr. Julius Baba, told The Guardian that the values system in the society has been eroded. “In those good old days, anybody could correct a child who was doing wrong, whether or not he or she was a biological son or daughter. You exerted some measure of discipline. But nowadays, whether the child is doing the right or wrong thing, you do not give any measured sanction. The child you are trying to correct may even insult you, telling you to mind your business.”
Baba added, “even the father might not want such a correction from you. He could be polite enough to tell you that the child would correct himself as time goes on. So, for now, every family is to themselves. It has become a norm. When you see these boys taking drugs in a corner, you don’t call the security. People no longer consider taking drugs as a crime.”
He also accused the security enforcement agencies of not doing enough to punish arrested addicts, as they don’t prosecute them. “When they arrest and detain these people, they most times set them free, because nobody comes forward to bail them.
ACCORDING to Amaeze Ogochukwu, a lecturer in the department of Clinical Pharmacy and Biopharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Lagos, “drug abuse can be classified into different categories like, psychological effect, which entails a dependence on the drug. When it occurs, you will start having a breakdown on both the physical and health system. That is when you notice signs of mental retardation, hallucination and illusion. There are physical effect such as, physical damage to the vital organs of the body like brain, liver and heart. We can also consider the social effect by looking at the crime rate in the country. When youths abuse these drugs, they are no longer in the right frame of mind and this explain why we have a lot of robbery cases, destitute, prostitutes, breakdown of law and order and to a large extent, moral decadence and so on.”
Ogochukwu said economic effect should be looked into as well, because when youths, who were supposed to be part of the workforce of the nation, are not mentally stable, “we have a great loss of workforce, workers who lack commitment to their jobs and financial losses due to drug abuse.”
According to the lady, to checkmate drug abuse, “there should be awareness campaigns in schools, parks, churches and everywhere.”
A CONSULTANT in the Psychiatric Hospital, Calabar, Cross River State, Dr. Michael Olutoki, disclosed that more than 50 per cent of youths ranging from primary, secondary schools and the university are abusing drugs.
Olutoki said peer groups, as well as by watching parents take hard substances, most of the youths are influenced. He said, “basically any society or community should be more worried about its youths, because they are in the age, where personalities are being formed. They are the active population in every community, so, what happens to them determines what happens to somebody, thereafter.”
He continued, “if a grown up, or a father is seen taking any of these substances, the son might likely do same, so, the youths are considered as vulnerable in the society. They are exposed to peer pressure. It is a bit worrisome that more than 50 per cent youths are into drugs and it is a case on research.”
According to the consultant, “when people take these substances, there are some perceived benefits they claim are gained. Some believe it takes away pressure, some say it gives them appetite to eat and some say it gives them confidence to do things beyond their reasoning. This is common among adolescents, who want to belong to a particular set of persons. They are still undergoing adolescent crisis of wanting to belong.”
He said, “most people that you see taking substances must have started at an adolescent age and if you address it at that stage, the effect of the drug may be lower, and after some time, they may stop, but at old age, people tend to realise their mistakes. By that time they must have reached 40 or 50 years and must have lost so many things and times in life, that is when they eventually come to their senses.”
Olutoki added, “it is a global issue that must be addressed. If we take care of the primary schools and secondary by teaching children what they should know, the effect will be lesser. If we can educate the younger ones right from the primary stage on the dangers of taking drugs, the effect will be lesser.”
Olutoki noted that research has it that Cannabis has been a major cause of abnormal behaviour among youths and users.
The psychiatric consultant stressed, “a person that takes cannabis is worst. Cannabis has been shown to cause psychosis, it means abnormal behaviour like hearing strange voices and talking to oneself, cannabis can be a major reason for mental illness. It has been documented and it is found to be a major reason for that.
“There is something that is called ill motivational syndromes, the drugs that they take tend to reduce their aspiration in life, and they don’t want to be on top of their game. They depend on people and become a liability. Taking drugs can mess up people’s life and render them useless to the society.”
Edet Edem, a FUTO graduate, also condemned the growing use of hard drugs among youths in the society, most especially, in the tertiary institutions.
He disclosed that some go as far as inhaling dirt from gutters and other substances like gum.
Edem, noted, “when I was schooling in the North, it was more common among youths to inhale hard substances in various forms. Some even inhale dirty sands from gutters and when it gets too much, they go mad and that ends their dream of continuing their studies.”
According to Dappa Maharajah, President of Movement for the Survival of the Underprivileged (MOSUP), the society is in a big mess and everyone is looking for an escape route, which he described as: “Escape from the reality that often lands people in bigger troubles.”
A SOCIOLOGIST from Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, Mrs Cecilia Olarewaju, disclosed that five secondary schools were randomly selected in Ondo town and 100 students were targeted with questionnaire that revealed that 76.7 per cent of the senior students and 76 per cent of the junior students took drugs without doctors’ prescription; and the drug mostly abused was Indian hemp by 66.7 per cent of the students.
Another research conducted by International Journal of Education and Research (Vol.2 No.4, April 2014) on 13, 550 students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko 2010/2011 academic session revealed that 33.3 per cent of the respondents abused hallucinogens, emphasizing that drug abuse was found to be higher in students living in low socio-economic class areas of the town: 30 per cent compared to high class areas, which is estimated at 21.6 per cent.
Experts, who spoke with The Guardian, said, drug abuse can totally be overcome and eradicated through government intervention projects and the important role that parents are expected to play.
Successive administrations have put in place various legislations against the abuse and trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. At the International scene, Nigeria has been a signatory to numerous bilateral and multilateral treaties as well as United Nations Conventions on Drug Control, including the 1988 United Nations Convention against illicit traffic in Narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
“Children should be told at a tender age about these drugs, its effect and implication. Drug abuse awareness should start from primary schools to enable children know early and avoid it. Also, the media should create proper awareness on drug abuse, as well as, the social media because some of these young ones indulge in it out of curiosity. This will go a long way in curbing the high rate of drug abuse in the country because if they know the effect and the implications of taking these drugs, they will avoid it,” Ogochukwu advised.
While lamenting drug abuse among youths, the National Director of Girls to Women Research and Development Centre (G2W), Mrs. Olamide Falana, urged parents, civic society organisations and the government to work on making society safer.
According to her: “If our streets are safe, our children will be safer. Cigar is everywhere, but the harder substances should be banned and there must be strict adherence to it. NDLEA should not restrict its attention on those that sell in a big quantities; what about those that sell in small quantities and make them available to the youths?”
Falana reiterated the need to strongly teach social morals and values among the youths. She warned that if people continue to show apathy towards society ills, the next victim might be their children, wards or someone close to them, who is supposed to be useful not only to him/herself, but to the society at large.
In the words of Ahmed Gana, an ex-officio of the National Association of Industrial Pharmacist, who was also the former chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Kano State branch, for effective and efficient fight against the proliferation of drug abuse in the country, the law establishing the NDLEA needs to be reviewed.
Gana said, “it is only when you re-organise NDLEA to include core stakeholders in drug management, like pharmacists and psychiatrists, that you can be able to operate effectively. For the psychiatrists, they should be much relevant in the aspect of rehabilitation of the spoilt youth or drug addicts.”
According to him, the agency only included security operatives and lawyers, whom he emphasised, lack the necessary technical know-how on drug management and administration.
He called on government to evolve ways and methods to harmonise laws against drug abuse in the country.
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Ondo State Command’s boss, Fasiu Adeyinka, attributed most of the crimes to negligence on part of some parents and guardians, urging them to caution their children and wards. He tasked them on getting familiar with their activities and paying keen attention to them.
In a bid to curtail the menace, the Ondo State Command of National Drug Law
Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has urged patent drug dealers in Ondo State to desist from retailing psycho-proactive drugs.
The State Commander of the NDLEA, Mr. Mohammed Sokoto, warned that anybody caught in the act or sales of such drugs would be punished in accordance with the law, revealing NDLEA’s collaboration with the state ministry of health, stating that the command was committed to the eradication of illicit drug trafficking in the state.