All the critical stakeholders must do more to contain the scourge

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) could not have been more apt when it recently linked the current challenge of internal security within the country to uncontrolled influx and use of psychotropic substances such as Tramadol and other drugs. This much was corroborated by Sheik Ahmad Gumi after his interactions with some bandits. “Hard drugs could be diverted for terrorist activities,” the NAFDAC Director-General, Mojisola Adeyeye had warned.     

 We support NAFDAC for its commitment and resolve to contain the inflow of psychotropic medications, which are drugs that affect behaviour, mood, thoughts, and perception. We also appeal to our regulatory authorities to see this warning as a wake-up call. The Nigeria Customs Service and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) must attend to regulatory compliance and prevent fake and substandard pharmaceutical consignments from being cleared at the nation’s ports and borders as well as ensure that only safe and quality products are available for distribution.    

Abuse of drugs and substance is a global phenomenon. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has consistently warned that the use of psychotropic medications and illegal drugs result in public health issue, leading to addiction, psychiatric and somatic disorder, and even death. The World Health Organisation (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence had similarly reported that the growing abuse of Tramadol by some African and West Asian countries may lead to intoxication like other opioid analgesics with the consequence of the breakdown of central nervous system (CNS), depression, coma, cardiovascular collapse, seizures, and respiratory depression up to a respiratory arrest.    

The consequences of abusing drugs can be dire. We are already seeing the effect of how several years of violence, insurgency, and now banditry can destabilise a country and undermine its development. The military adventure in the north-east and other parts of the country is an expensive operation while many people have either been killed or displaced. There is also a profound threat to food security given that many farmers now find it risky to go to the field to plant and harvest crops.     

Criminal groups under the influence of narcotics and other drugs are also gaining notoriety by ganging up with terrorists, drug traffickers and pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. Senior officials of the current administration have, at different times, identified scavengers under the influence of hard drugs as catalysts for many criminal activities, including kidnapping which are on the rise. They are deemed a threat to security as these homeless people have no means of livelihood and are willing tools to be exploited for arson and breach of public peace and order.    

In many parts of the country, abduction of people is now a thriving business as hardly a day passes by without news of people being kidnapped for ransom either in their homes or on their way to work or while travelling on the road. And unfortunately, some of these insurgents, bandits and kidnappers are hooked to psychotropic drugs which they consume before carrying out their despicable acts. Government has a shared responsibility to address this problem in a manner that will ensure that those addicted to psychotropic drugs are prevented from exploiting the weak. There is also an urgent need to review our value system, particularly at home and in schools. Parents have the obligation to discreetly vet the kind of company their children keep, and safeguarding them from being introduced to drugs and crimes.