A Nation at the Cusp of Hard Drugs Epidemic

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Chiamaka Ozulumba writes that if proper measures are not taken, Nigeria would be hit by an epidemic of hard drugs as major illegal substances like Black Mamba, Arizona, King Louis XIII, Gelato or Larry Bird, Forbidden Fruits, flood the streets at an alarming rate with young people resorting to potent mixtures despite the high risk of fatal overdose

“I never knew I would end up like this”, those were the words of Ben Thomas (not real names), who confided to this reporter about his decade addiction to hard drugs. Speaking on strict condition of anonymity in one of the suburbs of Ikorodu in Lagos State, he said he started from the minor stuff before upgrading to major substances like Arizona and others.

“It started with a puff back in senior secondary school where I started experimenting with hard drugs. To me, I was just ‘catching fun’, but little did I know I would be an addict 10 years later. I started smoking cigarette, but it wasn’t ‘taking me there’, then I migrated to SK (Igbo).

“When I gained admission, the hunger for something stronger pushed me into doing weird mixtures just to get high and my grades dropped. The rehabilitation centers yielded little results as I suffered a relapse when I got back to school due to the fact that I was with my juniors of two years while my mates had graduated while I was detoxing.

“I had gone too far to come back, I dropped out again when I got addicted to Tramadol, Codeine, Arizona and the likes. I feel sorry for my mom, because she did her best to steer me away, but the hold drugs have on me is way beyond my control,” he lamented.

Recently, practically all social media platforms have been agog with videos and pictures of Nigerian youths behaving psychotic due to substances they ingested. Most of them were seen with blue tongues as they exerted all kinds of dangerous activities. Some went as far as rolling in the gutters, throwing themselves on the ground and all sort of acts they ordinarily wouldn’t have done.

The use of hard drugs in the country is increasing at an alarming rate with young people resorting to potent mixtures of several drugs at the high risk of fatal overdose.

Identified Illegal Substances
This dangerous trend engineered this reporter to delve into the world of hard drug epidemic. From findings made, Nigeria is on the verge of a major drug epidemic as hard drugs like Codeine, Tramadol, Black Mamba, Rohypnol, Arizona, King Louis XIII, Gelato (Larry Bird), Forbidden Fruits, Sour Diesel, Gorilla Glue, Amnesia, White Fire OG, Purple Haze, Diamond OG, Blue Coma, Headband, and even Orange Apricot, flood the nation.

The latest drug ‘Colorado’ or ‘Black Mamba’ is currently sweeping the streets. It is common knowledge that people now mix all forms of drugs with weed to create ‘Monster smoke’ like Colorado, Black Mamba, Arizona, Lamba (when mixed with ‘Loud’, a highly potent strain of marijuana), Happy Boy or Scooby Snax.

Colorado or Black Mamba is a drug made from synthetic plant, they contain heavy metals which are laced with chemicals not suitable for human consumption, is then mixed with weed, the drug is known as Spike in the US, so Spike plus weed gives Colorado.

Effects

In one of the 17 seconds viral video on social media, a young lady in pink was being restrained while she shouted and rolled on the floor. Her tongue was tinged blue, signifying the consumption of Rohypnol. It was alleged that after she smoked Colorado and ran amuck, rohypnol was given to her to ‘slow’ her down.

For Colorado, it would get users high and induce retching, loss of consciousness, irregular breathing, cause mental episodes, panic attacks, severe paranoia, psychosis, extreme anxiety, hallucinations, convulsions, kidney failure and a ‘zombie-like’ intoxication that can lead to death.

Statistics

According to a very recent survey by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Center for Research and Information on Substance Abuse with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and funding from the European Union (EU), over the past year alone, nearly 15 per cent of the adult population in Nigeria (around 14.3 million people) reported a “considerable level” of use of psychoactive drug substances.

Statistically, it is reported that about 10.6 million Nigerians abuse cannabis, 4.6million deal in opioids, 2.3 million abuse cough syrups, and less than a million people use sedatives, cocaine and heroine.

Findings
Investigations by THISDAY showed that most users of Black Mamba or Colorado prefer smoking it, after it has been mixed with high-grade marijuana and rolled up in papers like weed and tobacco, the mixture bears uncanny resemblance to marijuana, but it is the farthest thing from Igbo as it comes in almost any colour.

It is alleged that people who make it often use dry herbs or lawn clippings to make sure it looks like Igbo as it often appears a shade between deep green and damp brown, in the UK and US, it is sold there as three major brand names; Spice, K2, Colorado, Black Mamba, for as low as $2 per bag.

Synthetic Marijuana is sold in small quantities for as low as N2,000 and as much as N10,000, depending on the size and where it was bought. The substance is tightly sealed in small bags about the size of tea bags with the brand name written on it.

These hard drugs all have street names like Rochie, Baba blue, Epa, Roffies, 542, which are all nicknames for Benzodiazepine Flunitrazepam, as it is a Valium laced with Rohypnol that makes the mouth and tongue of users blue. In some places, Rohypnol is sold in the country as an over-the-counter medicine for severe insomnia, anaesthetic purposes and is relatively cheap unlike marijuana and apart from intoxicating users, Rohypnol is allegedly used by male youth as a date-rape drug as it is almost tasteless when put into drinks.

It is now common to see people with their blue tinted tongues, as users would either lick it like sweet or swallow it as a pill, dissolve it in a drink or snort it while the adventurous ones sprinkle it on marijuana and smoke it. Users usually exhibit traits like slurred speech, lack of coordination and loss of motor control, when taken in large doses, the user will roll on the ground, rolling their eyes and being incoherent.

‘Gutter water’ a cocktail of drugs, is a mixture of codeine, tramadol, rohypnol, cannabis with either water or juice is widely consumed by young adults who in their bid to get high now turn to crude concoctions like smoking lizard parts and an animal dung as well as sniffing sewage, petrol, glue and urine which is rampart in many northern states.

Research revealed that people who sniff glue aim to get intoxicated by the fumes from the solvents found in the adhesives, they empty the substance into a polyethene bag and put their face inside, inhaling deeply. Some users would pour it onto a handkerchief and inhale, while others prefer to heat the substance before inhaling it.

Medical Perspective
According to Pharmacist Chinaza Nwaeke, “the intake of hard drugs by Nigerian youths has always been there, but the surge in its intake can be attributed to the reduced rate of drug monitoring across the country. Some hard drugs are cheap and some expensive, they are either imported or home grown.

“Hard drugs are majorly natural plants with active ingredients which have been extracted as powders, syrups or taken as injections, they can also be actual formulated drugs which are supposed to be sold on a prescription only basis but are given freely or acquired through the wrong means.”

Nwaeke added that, “the longer one abuses drugs, the higher tolerance to these drugs increase and you see abusers looking for drugs in larger quantities leading to addiction, the family, society and the government still have a lot to do. I know many addicts but few survivors, drug abuse is a very dangerous habit that calls to one even as a survivor, a lot has to be done to stop this ugly vice.”

Social View
President, The Drug Salvation Foundation, Mr. Wilson Ighodalo told THISDAY that “drug abuse decreases a person’s productivity and challenges a community’s sense of security, love and peace with one of the key impacts of illicit drug use on the society being the negative health consequences experienced by its users.They are susceptible to high blood pressure, depression, HIV and mental illness”.

“The role of parents, schools, NGO’s and National Orientation Agencies can not be overemphasised as drug use puts a heavy financial burden on individuals, families and the society, thus they play a great role in information dissemination on the consequences of drug abuse.

“The level of education is seen as the main factor influencing self-medication and drug awareness and education among young people provide prevention options and health effects of substance abuse.

“These strategies aim to reduce the desire and willingness to obtain and use drugs and whether the issue of drug abuse is approached from either medical, psychological, toxicological or legal perspectives, preventives approach is the most important and complete idea solutions.”

Government’s Stance
When contacted, NDLEA Spokesperson, Lagos State Command, Mallum Musa, told THISDAY that, “the surge in the usage of illicit drugs is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. People start using for reasons best known to them and they cannot stop even if they want to because such person is now an addict.

“Drug usage can be triggered by peer pressure, broken home, loss of livelihood or being jilted, they go into it without knowing the repercussions of their act. Even if a drug baron is arrested today, there are others who immediately take his place and the vicious circle continues and without the help of the society, the agency is fighting a lost battle. The society has to work closely with the agency to put an end to the drug menace.

“The crux cannot be put on the government alone as the family and society have their part to play. There have been cases where children are abandoned by both their families and society and they become a burden to the government.”

He added that rehabilitation centres are not enough to cater for addicts, as such, enlightenment and sensitisation programs are needed to steer the young ones away from harm and educate them on the harm that illicit drugs causes and also in the fight against drug trafficking and abuse in Nigeria.

Advocacy by NGOs

Aside government, there is need for non governmental organisations to champion enlightenment campaigns in the mass media as part of efforts to complement government’s commitment at ensuring the rising rate of drug abuse is totally eradicated among the youths in the country.

With such increased advocacy and awareness, stemming the use of hard drugs and other depressive tendencies and habits, which are strongly associated with mental illness, will also go a long way in reducing mental illness in the society.

This is because the menace of mental illness is such that is very harrowing and one that has destroyed families, aborted lofty dreams and has come at great expense to the government in the areas of rehabilitation and keeping the mentally retarded off the major streets.

One of such NGOs championing this cause is Ajike People’s Support Center, established by the wife of the Kwara State governor, Mrs. Olufolake Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq.

According to her, “as with cancer, diabetes and heart disease, mental illness is often physical as well as emotional and psychological. Mental health may also be caused by a reaction to environmental stress, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these.

“Although the causes of most mental disorder are not fully understood, a variety of biological, psychological, and environmental factors has been identified to contribute to the development and progression of mental disorder.

“It is generally held too that intake and abuse of hard drugs contribute immensely to the number of young persons found in rehabilitation homes. I charge parents and guardians to be vigilant and be conscious of what their children and wards involve themselves with.”

By and large, many experts have reiterated that with continuous advocacy on drug abuse and its effects, the menace will drastically be reduced and this will in the long run improve the socio economic development of the nation and its citizens as they will add better value to the society.

Nonetheless, until government and the society at large begin to address the underlying circumstances leading to the usage of hard drugs in the first place, eradicating the menace may be near impossible.