By Tayo Ogunbiyi
Few years back, I visited a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts in Lagos, where young women and men were being helped to liberate themselves from the shackles and pains of drug addiction so they could live and enjoy a more dignified and fruitful lives. What I saw on that particular occasion was quite distressing. I saw young men and women in excruciating state of emotional and psychological turmoil. Here were once vibrant and dynamic youth but now almost on the verge of becoming another wasted generation tale. From what one saw on that fateful day, their road to rehabilitation is not by any means straightforward. It requires bravery, dedication and the empathy of committed counselors.
Ironically, the young men and women that I saw at the rehabilitation centre ought to thank their stars for their lucky fortune. Across the globe, there are millions of their kind whose lives have been captured and effectively dominated by the evil of drug abuse and are thoroughly hopeless concerning whatever the future holds for them. Without a doubt, drug abuse and other related matters have become major issues that constitute a great danger to the present world order.
It is in order to address the issue that the United Nations (UN) observes the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking every June 26 to draw attention to the major problem that illicit drugs represent to society. The Day is supported by individuals, communities and various organizations all over the world.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has, over the years, been actively involved in launching campaigns to mobilize support for drug control. The UNODC often teams up with other organizations and encourages people in society to actively take part in these campaigns.
The drug abuse and drug trafficking indicator across the world is quite awful. For instance, data from AUNODC reveal that almost 200 million people are using illicit drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, hallucinogens, opiates and sedative hypnotics globally. Likewise, of recent, drug trafficking has developed into a foremost hazard to the health and security of people and nations across the globe. Indeed, there is a strong link between drug abuse and rising wave of terrorism across the world. It has, for instance, been revealed that the $61 billion annual market for Afghan opiates is funding insurgency and global terrorism. In West Africa, the $85 billion global cocaine trade worsens addiction and money-laundering, political instability and insecurity.
Ironically, lots of money is involved in this criminal business. For every $1 billion of unadulterated cocaine that is trafficked through West Africa, more than ten times as much is earned when it is sold European market. The reality, thus, is that we are talking about a business that involves huge money and as such might be very difficult to eliminate except appropriate strategies and political will are exerted by relevant stakeholders. Drug trafficking and drug abuse are interrelated evils and must be tackled as such. Drug trafficking and abuse have led to increase in criminal activities, violence, corruption, destruction of individuals, families and communities and the undermining of national economies.
In Africa, lately, concerns are rife over drug abuse, especially among the youth. Years ago, such worry was almost none existing. However, a radical change seems to have taken place over the years when illegal trafficking and abuse of drug silently crept into the society. There has been a dramatic acceleration of this trend during the past 20 years. Apprehension over abuse of hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine is even more recent, starting about 15 years ago in some African countries and increasing to absorb more countries in the last five years.
There is a consensus of opinion that this new trend was preceded and accompanied by a steady and unavoidable erosion of traditional social fabric and values. The African family, recognized in its extended form, occupied a primate and central position in this social system. Sadly, however, this system is disintegrating. Social disintegration is also accelerating under the adverse influences of growing poverty, civil war, tribal conflicts, droughts and other natural catastrophes which lead to famine and massive displacement of populations, creating a situation in which drug abuse worsens rapidly.
As the world observes this year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, it is important to stress, especially for youth who are deeply ensnared by this evil habit, that breaking the addiction is the only way to overcome the problem of drug abuse. Parents, religious and community leaders as well as educational institutions can make a huge difference in stemming the tide of drug abuse and trafficking in our nation.
Parents, in particular, need to spend more time with their children and properly tutor them on the danger that illegal use and sale of illicit drugs constitute to their future.
Beyond the usual fanfare, and speech making usually associated with such international events, this year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking must be used to appropriately draw attention to the significance of addressing these double threats through the rule of law and the provision of health services. Governments have a task to counteract both drug trafficking and drug abuse, but communities can also make a major contribution.
As earlier stated, families, schools, civil society and religious organizations have a part to play in ridding the society of the nuisance of drugs. The private sector could help in providing legitimate livelihoods for the youth who have come to depend on drug trafficking as a source of income. The media equally has a role to play in raising awareness about the threat of living a drug-dependent life.
Realistically, the task of checkmating drug abuse and illicit trafficking in drug is quite enormous. Success can be attained if all stakeholders across the world reinforce their commitment to tackling this twin evil. The stark reality of the havoc that drug abuse could unleash on the world if not properly checked, calls for urgent actions among all world stakeholders.
Hence, as this year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is observed worldwide, it is essential to lay emphasis on the need for a concerted global onslaught against the nuisance of drug abuse and illicit trafficking in the world.
•Ogunbiyi writes from Lagos.