Nigeria Loses N10bn Annually to Drugs, Substance Abuse, Say Experts


James Emejo in Abuja 

A Professor of Neuropsychiatry, University of Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, Prof. Princewill Chukwuemeka Stanley has disclosed that 

the country currently loses about N10 billion annually from drugs and substance abuse.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony/lecture of the Nigerian Society of Substance Use, Prevention and Treatment Professionals, he expressed worry that budgetary allocation to the health sector had remained in single digits over the past decade, while National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) programme had continued to wobble.

In his lecture titled, “Drug Demand Reduction: Holistic and Integrated Approach for Sustainable National Development”, he said the catastrophic impact of drug abuse called for national reawakening and awareness.

This is as the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA), Brig. Gen. Mohammad Buba Marwa (rtd), while inaugurating the national body which is the Nigerian affiliate of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP), said the country was in a crisis of substance abuse.

He noted that substance abuse had become one of the biggest challenges the country had ever seen in recent times. 

According to him: “Statistics shows that while global prevalence of drug use is 5.6 per cent, in Nigeria it is 14.4 per cent (14.3 million people). One in seven persons in Nigeria between the ages of 15 and 64 years use at least one psychoactive substance as against global average of one in 20.” 

He added: “One in five persons who use drugs in Nigeria are suffering from substance use disorders. This is higher than the global average of one in 11 persons.

“Nigeria’s population is about three per cent of the world’s population but six per cent of the world population of cannabis users are in Nigeria while 14 per cent of the world population who misuses pharmaceutical opioids are in Nigeria, thereby making Nigeria one of the countries in the world with the highest population of people who misuses tramadol and codeine cough syrup.”

Nevertheless, the former Lagos State governor, said the inauguration came at a time when the federal government was taking holistic steps towards addressing the challenges of substance abuse, one of which he tied to the setting up of PACEDA.

Represented by a former Director-General, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mr. Lanre Ipinmisho, Marwa said setting up of the committee was a demonstration of political will on the part of the present administration to reverse the alarming trend of substance abuse in the past few years which has become a threat to public health, national stability, peace and security. 

However, National President, ISSUP, Nigeria Chapter, Mr. Martin Agwogie said the emergence of the body represented a new dawn for drug demand reduction in the country.

He said part of its commitment was to deploy available human capital within ISSUP Nigeria Chapter towards the development of capacity of practitioners in the field of drug demand reduction for evidence-based interventions and policies.

He Said: “We are also obligated to work proactively with ministries, departments and agencies of our government at all levels towards the development and implementation of evidence-based policies, strategies and interventional programmes. 

“Speaking on drug control policy reform globally, Kofi Annan of blessed memory said “drugs have destroyed many lives, but wrong government policies have destroyed many more”. 

He stressed that a lack of professional practice among stakeholders in the field of drug demand reduction in the country had caused more grievous damage to the health and well-being of individuals and the nation is general.

He said: “In addition, based on the scientific fact that the field of drug demand reduction is rapidly evolving, the policies and laws of yesteryears have been found inadequate to address present day drug situations. 

“Thus we must contribute to reversing this unwholesome trend. On our own part, we have set aside the 17th of October every year as Drug Demand Reduction Policy Day (DDRPD), a day where all our members across Nigeria will come together to review drug demand reduction policies with the aim of reaching consensus on viable options and putting forward recommendations to our government via ministries, departments, agencies and other relevant stakeholders. 

“Thus we look forward to a day when our dear government and other stakeholders will identify with us for annual review of our drug demand reduction policies, programmes, activities and trends. This collaboration will help to keep our legislative and administrative processes with regards to substance use abreast with the current science of drug demand reduction.”

Stanley, nonetheless, stressed that the topic was not only timely, but urgent, in view of the obvious damning catastrophic and worrisome statistics of the country’s drug use profile, which according to him, called for a national reawakening and awareness.

“The truth remains that Nigeria has been bugged by drug and substance use challenges from the colonial days and this continued from independence to the present day,” he said, adding that “the burden today both nationally and globally has remained alarming, with its attendant huge Socio-economic, psychological and physical costs.”