Each day, Nigerians keep experiencing shock reading and listening to news of more teenagers and youths embracing a life of consumption and abuse of hard drugs and all manner of self-enhancing substances.
Going by the reports, many a Nigerian youth appears to be on an ignoble adventure to seek more ways of getting stoned for no acceptable reason. Many of them have been caught and trapped in the intoxication spree and have become a nuisance to themselves, their families and society.
From the South to the West, from the East to the North, stories of drug addiction reverberate, and it is already spiralling to uncontrollable heights. Young men and women who indulge in it do so even openly with some sort of pride. For instance, they could be seen sipping soft drinks in a plastic bottle but, unknown to many, the content is already adulterated with some narcotic substances.
Perturbed by the ugly drift and the need to squarely tackle it, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), David Folaranmi Foundation, was established on August 31, 2017, in Abuja.
As gathered, it kicked off with a promise to search the nooks and crannies of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and other parts of Nigeria for those whose lives have become apparently miserable due to drug abuse. It had also organised many sensitisation workshops for primary and secondary school pupils and others, with a focus on prevention and rehabilitation of victims.
The project director of the NGO, Mr. Folaranmi David, said the foundation, through its various platforms, has been helping youths from all facets of life to live a fulfilled life. He said his team focuses on motivating youths to maximise their potential, thereby turning many of them to world changers. He clarified that the lofty objective could not be achieved while dealing with people whose mental faculty was deformed by drug abuse.
He told the reporter that, having been personally involved in chronic drug abuse for about six years before he was rescued, he could not fold his arms and watch those that were still trapped in it perish.
“The aim of the NGO is to develop the youths by providing them with a sense of worth and direction, with the aim of transformational leadership. It is our passion to see that the destinies of the youth of this great country are preserved. We carry out our activities through various platforms; one of such is the ‘Live Free Initiative.’
“The initiative has two phases, which are the school drug eradication project and the Live Free Initiative club. In 2019, our team has spoken to over 2,000 youths across various institutions in primary and secondary schools. We have organised youth meetings, talks at religious centres, as well as one-on-one counselling. We believe that the impact has been massive and positive due to the feedback we are already getting.
“One of the testimonies is the recent case of a young lady in Abuja who had been addicted to crack cocaine and heroin for upward of eight years. She had been estranged from her family, which is normal in a case like this, and her health had deteriorated drastically. Our team was able to reach out to her. We offered her counsel and rehabilitated her. And, most importantly, we achieved a social and family reintegration, as she has already been reunited with her family and engaged meaningfully in a vocation. It gladdens our hearts to see that lives on the verge of eternal destruction are revived and renewed,” he said.
David insisted that the family plays a major role in combating the menace of drug abuse. He said the roles of parents in helping their children resist the pressure to use drugs could hardly be played by any other person. He warned youths not to dare the use of drugs, saying that it progressed gradually until addiction set in.
His words: “Government must pay more attention to the hazard caused by drug abuse by investing more in research, creating more awareness and establishing more treatment centres. Also important in the campaign are our religious bodies. Nigeria is a highly religious nation; we tend to listen to what we are told by our religious leaders. Therefore, the clerics need to acquire more knowledge on the subject matter so as to afford factual information during counselling. They must also be open to the introduction of drug abuse awareness programmes in their places of worship.
“Having visited various treatment centres, hospitals and areas where illicit drugs are sold and consumed, I must say we have a major drug abuse crisis, which is an emergency. All hands must be on deck to curb this trend.”
David stressed that drug abuse posed a major threat to the future of Nigerian youths. He lamented that it has become too easy to purchase illicit drugs virtually everywhere in Nigeria.
He said it was frightening that a large number of Nigerian youths were dependent on one form of illicit drug or the other, and there was an advocated urgent need to take drastic measures to arrest the situation.
On what could be responsible for the rising spate of drug addiction, he said the trend might continue unabated if aggressive awareness campaign on its dangers was not championed. He pointed at the recent report that revealed that there were 15 million cases of drug addiction in Nigeria.
Proffering solutions, he said: “We are advocating that the dangers of drug abuse and addiction be included in the curriculum for primary and secondary school students. If our children are adequately informed and empowered, there will be a drastic reduction in drug abuse and addiction.
“The David Folaranmi Foundation has funded 80 per cent of the activities carried out by the Live Free Initiative. I have funded most of the organisation’s works, while the rest has been funded by family and close friends who have been supporting the vision from inception. However, to broaden our scope and reach a larger target audience, we need partnerships with individuals, corporate bodies and government organisations.
“Our vision clearly states that we want to see a drug-free society. In the next few years, we plan to make giant strides in unfolding this vision by reaching more children, teenagers, and youths. We will create more awareness and enlightenment. Through research, we plan to come up with more practicable treatment methods for those suffering from addiction. It is in our short-term plan to establish world-class rehabilitation centres to be run by experts.”
His advice for youths who are pressured by peers is: “Please, say a consistent no to drug abuse. It is more of a plea than an advice. I suffered a chronic drug addiction disease for six years. In my case, I was addicted to crack cocaine. I experienced hell, and I would not wish my experience on my worst enemy.
“If you are involved or you know someone involved in drug abuse, please call for help. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Also, no one should use drugs or alcohol to escape their problems. Most young people I have come in contact with have confessed that personal problems can’t be fixed with drugs and alcohol. People described how their problems were still there, waiting for them when they were no longer high or drunk. Some found out that drugs and alcohol made life more difficult.
“I must commend the work being done by the National Film and Video Censors Board and other regulatory bodies on the content being delivered in the name of entertainment. But I always caution our youths to be careful with what they listen to and what they watch. There is a lot of foul entertainment content that pressures our youths to indulge in experimental consumption of illicit drugs. While the government reinforces its resolve to put away such content permanently, youths must take responsibility for their lives.
“I lost three friends to drug abuse but I will tell you the story of one of them who was very close to me. Joshua (not real name) was a vibrant young man. We spent four years in the university together. He was intelligent and was from a Christian family. Sometime during our National Youth Service year, Joshua mingled with the wrong crowd and got addicted to crack cocaine. At that time, he was already engaged to an amazing, beautiful young lady who then recently graduated from university. They had such great plans for their future.
“However, Joshua’s drug use increased and his addiction issues worsened. He got married to Jane sometime in 2012. His wife gave birth to a set of twins. But, sadly, Joshua died of a drug overdose a few weeks after the birth of his children. It was only after his death that Jane knew about my friend’s drug addiction issues.”