Every day in Nigeria, the media is awash with stories of young people taking to hard drugs and other illegal substances. And without a doubt, the ugly trend has become worrisome to families, government and the larger society. Many promising stars have been sent to their graves and their potential buried with them on account of drug abuse.
Psychologists, sociologists, psychiatrists and different crusaders have asserted that there are immediate and remote causes leading to drug abuse and misuse. They have also warned that the consequences on the victims are far-reaching.
Experts have warned that abuse and misuse of any illicit substance could result in health complications such as inability to carry out daily responsibilities, physical dependence, poor coordination, withdrawal symptoms if usage stops and cravings for drugs or alcohol.
Disturbed by the incidence and shallow awareness on the dangers of drug abuse, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Adorable Foundation International (AFI), on June 26, staged a walk against all forms of drug abuse and misuse.
Despite the downpour that day, youths in their hundreds, many of whom were members and patrons of the foundation, marched through James Robertson Street and its environs in Surulere, Lagos. They sang and danced, while distributing fliers to residents and passersby. That was the kick-off of the walk, which was extended to the Ikorodu, Ibeju Lekki and Otto Awori parts of Lagos.
The event was organised in order to connect with the rest of the world to renew commitment in tackling the drug menace across the globe.
The United Nations (UN) has set aside every June 26 as the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. It is the day when all nations take stock of all efforts made in the war against drug abuse and trafficking, with a view to reassessing and adequately confronting the challenges arising from there.
The theme for this year’s commemoration was “Health for Justice, Justice for Health,” targeted at addressing the need for drug-dependent persons to have access to the treatment they need.
The founder of AFI, Princess Ada Okeke Amam, told the reporter that her NGO was not just fighting the war, but has resolved to win it in order to have a safer society for everyone to live in. She said that it gives her pleasure to be combing the streets of Lagos and other parts of the country for people already trapped in drug abuse, so that they could be rescued and transformed. She stated that in her resolve to positively touch the lives of many youths, she has denied herself certain comforts, especially every June.
But she believes that the most effective way to tackle the crisis is to intensify the campaign and take awareness to every nook and cranny of the country. She reiterated that, through “a societal awareness campaign against drug abuse (ASACADA),” her foundation was poised to extend the campaign to villages.
Apart from fighting drug abuse, she stated that her NGO was also giving free medical checks to Nigerians across religious and tribal lines, even as the organisation was also feeding the less privileged.
“In all these spots, we have invited officers of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), medical teams and the police to talk on the illicit cultivation and abuse. We have organised workshops on awareness, road shows and school outreaches,” she said.
Amam said the drug menace has dealt a devastating blow on Nigerians and the country and stressed that it was high time people came out to join forces in order to effectively fight the battle.
Her words: “People are going into what they wouldn’t ordinarily go into. But it is unfortunate that we have continued to shy away from the truth. I strongly believe in preventing it because, when most people go into it, coming out becomes very difficult for them. It thereby results in a huge loss for the family and the society as well.
“When we went to Queens’ College in Yaba a few weeks ago, you needed to see how excited the students were. There were so many revelations and the students learned the different ways they could be drugged, initiated into drug abuse and get addicted. And I was particularly impressed at the level of the students’ participation.
“This is our sixth year of telling people that it is cheaper and easier to eradicate the hazard through prevention. We also feed those that are hungry because when the people are hungry they might not be willing to listen to the message that one is bringing to them, no matter how useful it is.”
The founder stated that the youth were the main target of the crusade. She emphasised that, without youths, there would be no nation, and adults were less susceptible to pressure when compared with youths.
She commended the Nigeria Police for collaborating with AFI in the campaign so far. She said confessions by convicted criminals on how illicit drug use propelled them to commit crimes were eye-opening.
On the roles of parents and teachers in the campaign, Amam urged them to inculcate the right information – dangers of drug abuse – in their children as early as possible. She regretted that many parents have failed in their domestic responsibilities. Stating that many parents have ruined their children’s lives by passing the buck to teachers and other caregivers.
“Parents should learn how to pay attention and listen to their children. This will have a way of boosting such children’s confidence to always confide in their parents. Sadly, we have seen instances where parents went to their children’s school to confront the teachers just for disciplining their kids. Various religions also have major roles to play in stamping out drug abuse from Nigeria,” she said.
Representing the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 2, Lawal Shehu, Assistant Commissioner of Police Steve Yabanet described AFI’s objective as a noble cause. He said the police were interested in the campaign and would always support the foundation and other NGOs working round the clock to drastically reduce drug abuse in Nigeria.
The president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Lagos State chapter, Chief Solomon Ogbonna Aguene, who was part of the ceremony, advised youths to say no to drug abuse, no matter the temptation. He warned that drug abuse or misuse could shatter dreams and claim lives.
He called on parents to pay close attention to their children so that they could quickly detect when anything goes wrong.
One of the youths, an undergraduate who participated in the walk, Esther Odili, said she was excited to partake in the sensitisation programme.
She said her interactions with fellow students on campus have revealed that there were a lot of environmental pressures that could lure students and other youths to drug abuse.
“One of my friends told me that the first time he took alcoholic drink was when he was about to defend his final year project. He said all his friends were taking it and they convinced him to do likewise. And by the time he graduated, he began to take different hard substances. It took his parents lots of efforts to reform him,” she said.
Also decrying the increasing rate of drug abuse in Lagos, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Lagos State, called for everyone to intensify efforts towards drug use prevention, social inclusion and protection, as well as building knowledge for justice and health.
The state’s NDLEA commander, Frederick U. Ezeorah, said the theme for this year’s campaign presupposes that effective responses to the challenges of drugs required inclusive and accountable institutions of criminal justice, health and social services. He said they all needed to collaborate to provide integrated solutions, in line with the international drug control conventions, human rights obligations and sustainable development goals.
“The Lagos State command of the NDLEA has been confronting the problem of drug abuse and trafficking in the state through the instrumentalities of our raid operations, prosecution and public enlightenment.
“From January this year to date, we have arrested over 200 drug suspects and made a seizure of 4,117.34 kilogrammes of various illicit drugs. Within the same period, 46 persons have been convicted and sent to jail and 175 drug users have been counselled and released. We have also carried out various public enlightenment programmes in various schools and other public places.
“Drug abuse and trafficking have remained the most serious organised crime in the world today. Drug trade generates billions of dollars for organised crime each year, imposing incalculable costs on individuals, families, communities and government worldwide,” he said.
A “substance” is anything that can alter a person’s mood or cognitive abilities. Substances can range from caffeine and alcohol to cocaine and heroin. While many people want to differentiate between the concepts of use and abuse, the line can easily become blurred.
There have been worries over how many people mistakenly believe that they are using a substance responsibly when, in actuality, they are putting themselves and their loved ones in harm’s way. While it might take a longer time for some users to begin to experience negative health effects from these substances, it begins to manifest in others almost immediately.
Drug misuse refers to the use of a substance for a purpose that is not consistent with legal or medical guidelines. This could mean taking more than what is prescribed, or taking medication that was not prescribed to the user.