The fight against drug abuse may have begun several decades ago but many have argued that the growth of drug sales and consumption has defied legislations and policies.
It has also assumed a worrisome dimension with statistics showing that the youth mostly indulge in the negative vice, which has sent many into their early graves while the lucky ones end up in chains or roaming the streets as lunatics.
Drug abuse or substance abuse has been defined as the use of certain chemicals for the purpose of creating pleasurable effects on the brain. There are over 190 million drug users around the world and the problem has been increasing at alarming rates, especially among young adults under the age of 30.
In Nigeria, the situation is not different as several efforts have been made by succeeding administrations towards bringing an end to the worrisome menace.
Several advocacies have trailed drug consumption in Nigeria which has been plagued with proliferation of consumption of various banned substances which experts say have serious damages to the brain.
The question is; To what extent has the efforts by stakeholders in the fight yielded results and what challenges meet such efforts?
Chiejina Charles Chibuzor, popularly known as Dabishop Romario, is a speaker on Youth, Behavioral and Mental Development. He lamented that the trend has become a cankerworm in the fabrics of the nation.
Chibuzor said: “The rate at which youth engage in drugs in Nigeria is alarming and heartbreaking. The major role I play as an advocate is going back to the roots such as primary, secondary, and higher institutions, telling them about the dangers of substance abuse and how it can actually destroy their dreams and aspirations in life.
“How can drugs intake make one a victim of crime such as stealing, prostitution, and other negative crimes.
He spoke on the role of parents in the fight, which he lamented some have become accomplices to.
“Ordinarily, parents should be the real advocates but unfortunately some get involved in such vices too, so the children even learn from their parents.
“What a pity that parents indulge in such vices in front of their children. If possible, avoid it completely. Some parents are not even close to their children.
“Your child must be your friend so that you can guide them. Don’t show too much love toward a particular child, neglecting the others. This is dangerous as he or she can easily get into drugs.”
Speaking further, he said their friendship circle should be known.
“Know their choice of friends especially if you live in an environment known for drug addiction.”
Chibuzor runs a drug awareness program called ‘HELP MY DRUG ADDICTION’, which seeks to help young addicts recover from its mental shackles.
Another Lagos based anti-drug abuse advocate, Sunny Irakpo, who runs SILEC INITIATIVES, while speaking exclusively with KaftanPost on the situation in the country, said: “Six out of ten boys engage in drugs and substance abuse, three out of ten experience brain damage.
“The youths are receiving this at the expense of contributing their quota to the development of our country.
“You will also recall that the Current Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Gen. Buba Marwa (Rtd), reported that when he served as the Chairman of the Presidential Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse in Nigeria, over 15 million Nigerians were reportedly engaged in drug use disorder, with age brackets 25-39 years as worse users according to UNODC.
“85% of the insane individuals are youth within the age bracket of 18-38 years,” Irakpo added.
Reports say the growth of cult-related activities have worsened the statistics.
According to a report of Psychriatrists Association of Nigeria (PAN), the activities are fueled with drug intake to alter their natural sense of reasoning towards achieving their dastardly acts.
Irakpo lamented the current trend in schools.
*”Are we to mention the sad situation in our Secondary schools? Not even tertiary, where one out of five of our pupils smoke marijuana, or the edible cookies been sold to pupils in our primary and secondary schools containing drugs such as marijuana and others to make our youth useless.*
“All these alone are indicators that Nigeria is sitting on a time bomb gradually exploding, which will affect the entire society.”
It is a common fact that the quest for economic survival has made many see every venture as worthwhile as long as it brings profits. This, the advocates agree, contributes immensely to the worrisome statistics.
Sunny Irakpo said: “Definitely, the unemployment situation is Nigeria is also a major factor responsible for drug abuse and trafficking.
“Why will someone spend 4-6 years and even more in the university, serve the country for another one year and at the end of the service to the nation, no job?
“The individual spends another five years or more looking for jobs that even government has not created.
“My brother, if a man wants to run mad and at forty years, one is still practicing the act of running mad on the streets, when will he complete practice of madness and start the real madness?
“So this is the actual example of the state of the Nigerian youths with the unemployment situation. Youths lose their most productive years unproductively searching for jobs not readily available, and the most painful aspect of it all is that platforms for talent discovery are not created, so the government kills our talents, no jobs provided, no enabling environment for individuals to compete or create something economically viable for oneself, or give social intervention funds or a hard-working reward system that can help our youth find a sense of fulfilment in life.
“When all these deprivations exist, the youths have no other choice but to channel their energies wrongly, which will be more detrimental to the economy and cost the nation more.
This view by Irakpo was also shared by Chibuzor, who said domestic challenges could push people into seeing any business as business.
“Some people, who sell drugs, do that to feed a large family and aged parents. So the challenge is enormous.
“The government should provide for the basic needs of the people as poor conditions of survival could lead into bad businesses such as illicit drugs trade.”
In a bid to confirm this, a drug consumption hideout behind a park at the popular Sango Otta in Ogun State, where I met a middle-aged woman sorrounded by smoking young men.
On sighting me, she said, “Oga, e dey o. I get Tram (Tramadol) and loud o.” She emphasized while trying to meet the demands of the red-eyed looking young men around her.
While trying to make the others feel safe with my presence and not suspect me, I quickly streched my bottled water I was holding to one of the youths who looked deadlier and sat down on a dirty bare floor acting like I was in the ‘mood’.
With a smile on his scars infested face, revealing a dirty set of teeth, he said in a husky voice, “E se egbon mi (meaning thank you my elder brother in Yoruba language).
“Ba woni (How are you)? I replied, trying to immitate their deep and cracked voice, which unfortunately did not add up.
The pathetic situation has been traced to almost every part of the country with the international community lending helping hands to the fight.
Sunny Irakpo spoke on his invitation to the United States towards boosting his efforts.
“I was invited by the U.S Government to participate in the Prestigious U.S International Visitors Leadership Exchange Program of the Department of State in combating drug abuse and the opioid crisis.
*”It was a multi-regional leadership exchange program of the U.S for outstanding individuals who have very significantly to the development of their countries, that took me as the sole representative from Nigeria out of 14 countries invited around the world.*
“The aim was so we could gain the 21st century knowledge and latest approach and information in tackling drug abuse in Nigeria and the world.
“I am delighted to say, I have signed two partnerships with U.S organizations, which include Shepherd University for 4000 dollars Enrollment Scholarship for Nigerians and Citizenship Diplomacy Leadership Exchange Program with Chicago to train our youth in leadership and fully develope their capacity for private and public offices knowing that leadership is the bane of the Nigerian Society.
“Today, I am grateful to the U.S Government for that sponsorship and recognition with the many international awards, which has geared me to do more for humanity across the world and Nigeria in particular.”
The challenges so far he said have been:
“Lack of support either from Government, corporate organizations and well meaning individuals to muscle up the needed resources to carry out sensitization programs that could aid in tackling drug abuse in Nigeria.
“On the other hand, no policy formation and implementation at the national level that can give direction in the fight. This is one of the challenges we face because if government is not throwing their weight behind it, individuals will be frustrated.
“I am privileged to have seen, from the Office of the National Drug Control Policy Office of the Executive President of the United States of America, how many billions of dollars the U.S government floated to tackling their drug challenges with structures and facilities deployed to help the fight and get the needed result. This includes empowering the various active NGOs to help the Government implement their programs.
“But here, Government will send you but they don’t empower, if at all little, the little corruption and corrupt officials, will help you eat the 60% of it. It is a very sad situation we have in our hands. Since empowerment is zero, the individuals, NGOs, and their agencies have to struggle to survive in their endeavor.” Irakpo concluded.
Experts have opined that drugs control laws need to be in place and obeyed by the political class or the elites. There is also a call for the National Assembly to speed up the Drug Control and Mental Health Bill respectively, so that the fight can be won with results.
It is believed that the country can only win the fight against drug abuse if they see it as worrisome as banditory, seccession calls, robbery, and other threats to peace and unity.
The same grave impacts could be pulled up if drug abuse is not given a tougher fight.