The increasing culture of drug abuse is clearly beyond government alone, writes Abimbola Akosile
A professor of French and English Semantics, Ayo Adegoke-Craig, 65, once described the effect of drug abuse in such a picture that could leave even the hardest of criminals shivering long after listening to him.
“Hard drugs,” he said in an interview with THISDAY, “can reduce a professor or president of a country to the level of a mechanic, who is also on drugs. It does not discriminate; it will reduce you to its level until you become a scum to the society.”
Clearly from the words of this former drug addict, he clearly has learnt his lessons, perhaps, the hardest way even though he may not be proud of it.
The growing culture of drug abuse among many Nigerian youths dates back many years. As often argued, some of the causes are believed to derive from peer pressure, parental negligence and of course, government’s inability to stem the tide through potent legislation, control, and enforcement.
Sadly and over the years, the list of drugs susceptible to abuse has increased, thus transcending the control, reach and even the understanding of the orthodox medicine. The common names that many are familiar with include Tramadol, Codeine, Rohypnol, cocaine, crack and of course, the famous marijuana or weed.
But, how much do you know of these ones: storm, cloud, skonk, molly, ecstasy, soda, gum, gutter dust, colorado, soakaway sniffing, monkey tail, dongoyaro et al? The list is eternally endless, therefore, complicating the fight against substance abuse and making it a lot easier for the recruitment of new intakes. Generally, substance abuse is known to induce social vices, civil disturbances and other forms of criminalities. It is indeed the very reason many youths have landed in different prisons across the land and abroad, even as the number of youths so far incarcerated in various prisons across the country has increased exponentially over the last few decades.
Apart from being a major source of crime, the health complications arising from substance abuse are equally not quantifiable. As a matter of fact, many of these youths are daily being arrested for drug-related offences or those with substance abuse problems are being remanded in different rehabilitation homes.
Basically, two factors have been identified as majorly responsible for the increasing substance abuse, although there are many more factors likely to contribute in no small measure. The two main factors are peer pressure and depression.
There is also the factor of unemployment, which though shares closely with peer pressure. There is yet another form of drug abuse, which is not commonly talked about but applicable to a majority of people, age and status regardless. This happens when people don’t adhere to dosage prescription but continue with the use of a particular drug for a much longer time without doctor’s approval. But this form of abuse is associated more with soft drugs.
However, whether soft or hard substance abuse, they both come with their ugly effects on the human anatomy. For instance, substance abuse is wont to deaden the nervous system; increases the heartbeat; causes the blood vessel to dilate; causes bad digestion especially of Vitamin B more so when taken on an empty stomach. Particularly disturbing is that drug abuse interferes with the power of judgment of the individual and poisons the higher brain and nerve centre, amongst others.
Unfortunately, some of the factors believed to be responsible for why substance abuse has continued to grow include self-denial by parents, weak legislation and enforcement and the poor regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, amongst others.
A professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and university don, Nelson Ochekpe, disclosed that recent research suggests that over 60 per cent of substance abuse occurs in the Northern part of the country with Kano State as its hub.
It was no wonder, that when the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, visited Kano State recently, she raised the alarm over the level of substance abuse going on in the state. According to her, Northern youths, including women, were wasting their lives with drug abuse and therefore urged political and religious leaders in the region to urgently find a lasting solution to the menace.
The alarm by the First Lady was however believed to have informed a recent market raid by the Kano State government, during which it reportedly discovered hard drugs worth millions of naira. In similar breath, the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, recently confirmed the seizure of more than five tons of Benilyn cough product this year alone, noting that a major seizure was from a warehouse, whose owner alleged that he got his supplies from Onitsha Market in Anambra State.
It is also public knowledge that there is a rise in substance abuse in South-west. And like other parts of the country, the problem of drug abuse in the South-west was believed to have assumed a disturbing dimension at the end of the Second World War following the return of some Nigerian soldiers from countries like Burma and India, where they had fought. And since then, substance abuse had taken a steady rise, spreading to as many parts of the country as possible.
As it is in today’s Nigeria, everyday, over a 500,000 bottles of codeine are reportedly consumed by the youths across the country, same with the intake of tramadol, rohypnol, marijuana, and other like substances. The scourge has been able to penetrate the Nigerian fabric as a result of affordability, which is made possible by children of all classes, most especially kids of the rich and powerful.
Whilst it is not impossible to effectively tame the growth of substance abuse in all parts of the country as well as eradicate it, it however requires the genuine commitment and determination of the government, in solidarity with parents, religious and non-governmental bodies to make this happen.
One of the ways to get this done is by aggressively destroying all the sources of the drugs, including (if possible) the farms where they are planted, using combined security forces. This is where stakeholders think parents too come in. In assisting government, parents must start to properly monitor their wards and the kinds of company they keep.
As a matter of urgency, government must enforce the teaching of the causes and effects of hard drugs in schools, starting from the primary schools, whilst recovery programmes should be introduced to those already in it.
To complement these, there must be continuous and sustained campaign against substance abuse by government at all levels. Government must also get the buy-in of medical practitioners across the country to help enforce the culture of drug prescriptions, at least, to halt and stabilise the abuse, which is now a pastime. Above all, there should be rigorous sanctions for anyone found abusing substance, soft or hard. That way, there is measured deterrence.