Job Osazuwa and Merit Ibe
Drug abuse and misuse have dealt a devastating blow on Nigerians, especially youths. Every day, there are reports of crimes being committed by young people who are under the influence of hard drugs. It is also believed that the spate of domestic violence ravaging the land could be linked to the heavy use of intoxicating substances.
Keen observers have raised the alarm that the unhealthy trend has become another pandemic that needs to be urgently tamed. Youths, including secondary school students, are seen in secluded and open places taking all manner of substances to get high. Many Nigerian youths with a bright future have been ruined by drug addiction. From all indications, the damage that drug addiction is inflicting on Nigerian youths is unquantifiable. Analysts believe that the economy and social life of the country are at the receiving end of a society that is infested with drug addicts. Many of the victims are bound with chains at home and different rehabilitation centres across Nigeria.
According to medics, some of these drugs are highly addictive and, when taken in excess, could gravely affect the mind and body. Some of the health implications, according to professionals, include abnormal or decreased touch sensation, blisters under the skin, bloating, blood pressure increase, blurred vision and change in gait and balance.
Abuse of drugs of all sorts could negatively impact people’s performance at the workplace, distort academic performance and impede emotional balance, resulting in loss of memory, among others. People who abuse drugs could also suffer mental psychosis, delusion, hallucination and even schizophrenia.
As it has done in the past, with the aim of conquering the disturbing development, Adorable Foundation International (AFI), once again this year, harped on the need to increase awareness across the country on the dangers of drug abuse and misuse.
In commemorating this year’s awareness campaign against drug abuse and illicit trafficking of drugs, the foundation, while adhering to the guidelines and safety measures against COVID-19, took the campaign to Makoko community in Lagos.
The founder of the foundation, Princess Ada Okeke Amam, said the focus of the organisation was to ensure the prevention of drug abuse. She expressed sadness that a number of precious lives have been lost to drug abuse. She was of the belief that success was easier to achieve with prevention than managing and rehabilitating a drug addict.
“While we have always marked the day with aggressive campaigns each year, this year happens to be a different one due to COVID-19. Over the years, we have discovered that drug abuse was responsible for most of the crimes in society.
“This is the time for all parents to listen to their children; have a cordial relationship with them as it is the first step towards helping them grow healthy and safe. It is also a time for all teachers, government officials and community leaders to show love and care to all children and youths as it will help reduce the menace of drug abuse,” Amam said.
Amam called on government at all levels to improve on the economy so that men and women who are willing to work but are enmeshed in idleness could be gainfully engaged.
The NGO distributed packs of foods to residents of Makoko community. The founder said, apart from warning them against the dangers of drug abuse, there was the need to campaign against hunger in the land.
Speaking at the programme, the staff officer, Demand Reduction Unit, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Juliana Ugwu, described drug addiction as a chronic brain-relaxing craving that could imprison the victim.
Quoting the 2018 drug use survey in Nigeria, she said that 14.4 million Nigerians have used illicit drugs other than tobacco. She added that the survey also revealed that one out of every eight Nigerians has suffered in one way or the other due to the drug use of another person.
She maintained that when one person is affected in a family, the other members also suffer. She called on everyone to play a part in stamping out the pandemic from Nigeria.
“We have the risk factors of drug addiction and the protective factors. The risk factors are those things that are present in the person or environment that are capable to make a person go into drug abuse. On the other hand, the protective factors are those things that we can put in place, or do in order to make us stay away from drug addiction.
“The risk factors are many. We have genetics. This means drug abuse can be transferred from parents to children. It can be passed from mother to child or unborn child. It means for a pregnant woman who smokes cigarettes, she would have passed on the habit to her unborn child. A person can have an inherent tendency to do drugs.
“There are things in the society or environment that can make one to take to drugs. These are unemployment, an environment in which a person is raised, peer pressure and so on. One of the greatest risk factors is the adult modelling. Those things that adults do and the children watch while growing affect the child.
“For instance, some parents build a bar in their sitting room. The bar contains exotic alcohol on display. And this child grows up seeing that every day with the idea that adults take alcohol. So, the child cannot wait to become an adult to start taking alcohol. The things we do in our homes can unknowingly expose our children to drug abuse.
“Talking of parenting, a lot of us were raised up with self-control, but our children today are left on their own, thinking that we are showing them love. No, we are destroying them. We should protect our children and the next generation.
“When we were growing up, our parents taught us to always finish our meal before the meat or fish that is served with it could be eaten. This was self-discipline and delayed gratification. That also showed that one must be patient in life before enjoyment sets in. But, today, we have the opposite of every virtue that was then taught.”
Also lending her voice to the discussion, a member of the NGO, Mrs. Nkechi Agubuzor, said that the foundation’s dream was to positively affect humanity. She stated that being available for one another was one of the ways to defeat the menace.
“We want to affect lives, the lives of those who have been affected by drug use. Everyone is affected because there is always a family member or a friend who has taken to drugs.
“It is not only coronavirus that is a pandemic, as far as we are concerned. Any issue that is a threat to life is a pandemic, such as drug abuse. From available statistics, drug abuse has claimed as many lives as coronavirus. But because it has been with us for some time, it would appear somehow unnoticed.
“In many homes, people are dying of drug abuse. There are different dangerous behavioural patterns that have put many in bondage. Today, we want to touch lives not only through giving education, youth enlightenment, talking to them one on one while maintaining social distance. We are also giving out palliatives.
“Our theme this year is ‘COVID-19: Drug Abuse is not the Answer.’ Drug abuse is an addiction, and, in view of the coronavirus, those who take and abuse dugs are more vulnerable to the attack of the virus. It takes one who has sound health to resist the virus. The virus acts more on deficiency, which drug abuse can cause. This is why we are out to join the United Nations to fight the illicit use of drugs.
“We will continue to tell the youths that it is high time they stopped drug abuse and misuse. We will not stop talking until a saner society is achieved,” Agubuzor pledged.