The report of the National Survey on Drug Use released recently in Abuja confirmed that Nigeria has about 14.3 million hard drug users aged between 15 and 64 years. The survey, which was supported by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), and the European Union (EU), was conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with the Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse (CRISA).
The survey revealed that 10.6 million Nigerians abused cannabis in 2018 while 4.6 million abused opiods. It also showed that 2.4 million youths and adults abused cough syrups with 92,000 more using cocaine. Most commonly abused drugs during the period are tranquilizers, sedatives, solvent, inhalers, amphetamines, and prescription stimulants.
The survey showed that the rate of drug use in Nigeria in 2018 more than doubled the global average of 5.3 per cent. The result of the survey has confirmed the rising cases of drug abuse in the country. According to the survey, the prevalence of the menace was more in the South West geo-political zone with 4.3 million users, South South came second while the south East with 1.55 million users came third. The North Central with 1.5 million users was ranked the lowest. Last year, a BBC report exposed how addiction to codeine, sourced from cough syrups, was destroying the lives of young Nigerians, with many unconscionable merchants profiting from the evil trade. All over the country, several young men and women who use addictive substances prowl the streets.
Earlier surveys have reported a disquietingly soaring abuse of prescription drugs, especially tramadol, among young Nigerians. Those that cannot access tramadol, codeine and some other substances like weed, cocaine or heroin still satisfy their drug needs through other inconceivable sources.
The report also showed that the majority of the drug users are into non-medical use of prescription opioids, especially tramadol and cough syrups containing codeine or dextromethorphan. The report also revealed that those that inject drugs are a sizeable proportion of high-risk drug users with pharmaceutical opioids. Cocaine and heroin are the commonly injected drugs. The practice of drug injections exposes the users to the risk of contracting a number of deadly communicable diseases, including HIV and Hepatitis B and C. About 4.6 million Nigerians are believed to have used such drugs in 2018 alone.
And as more Nigerians of productive age consume illicit drugs, the future is bound to be bleak. However, the good news is that the situation is certainly not beyond redemption, if the authorities would sit up and address the menace frontally. The report has provided the Federal Government and its agencies like the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse the necessary information to tackle the drug scourge. For the first time ever, the Federal Government and the appropriate agencies now have access to a robust data on the prevalence of drug use in Nigeria at the national level and also by geopolitical zones and states. The survey provided relevant facts and figures on the extent and pattern of drug use that could aid policy formulation and implementation.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, disclosed that a Drug Demand Reduction Unit has been established in his ministry, as part of efforts to coordinate and implement strategies that will lead to evidence-based drug prevention, treatment, and care.
Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA), General Buba Marwa (rtd), has advocated the blockage of all channels of supplies. According to him, there are 58,000 registered medicine stores in the country but over one million are operating illegally.
Government should step up monitoring teams to regulate their activities. Government must strengthen its sensitisation campaigns against drug abuse across the country. All stakeholders, including parents, schools, churches, mosques and community leaders, must be involved.
More drug counselling and treatment service facilities should be provided. Above all, every Nigerian must realise that drug abuse has become endemic in the country and must all be involved in the efforts to eliminate the menace.