Alarming rise in drug abuse cases; who’s to blame?

The rate of drug abuse, particularly among the youth, has continued to rise to an alarmingly worrisome level, TOPE SUNDAY writes.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in one of its reports, indicated that drug use was responsible for the death of almost half a million people in 2019, while drug use disorders resulted in the loss of 18 million others.

Similarly, a national drug use survey in 2018 also revealed that Nigeria had about 14.3 million drug users, of which close to 3 million suffer from drug use disorder.

This figure represented a 14.4 per cent prevalence rate in Nigeria, which is about three times the global average prevalence rate of 5 per cent.

Also, the UNODC in its 2021 World Drug Report projected that by 2030 the number of people using drugs around the world would rise by 11 per cent.

In the same vein, about 275 million people used drugs worldwide in the previous year, while over 36 million people suffered from drug use disorders, according to the 2021 World Drug Report, released by the UNODC.

NDLEA statistics

On its part, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has said that 40 per cent of Nigerian youths, between 18 and 35 years, were deeply involved in the abuse of drugs.

According to NDLEA, Chief Superintendent of Narcotics, Mrs. Atinuke Aduloju, who gave the figure two years ago in Lagos, said the statistic was worrisome and showed that the problem had reached an epidemic level in the country.

She added that the rate at which youths were becoming addicted to illicit drugs had reached an alarming state, adding that the prevalence of drug abuse in Nigeria and the negative impact on public health and safety necessitate that all hands must be on deck to curtail the challenge in the country.

It’s pandemonium

Drug abuse, a pandemonium Okene

For the Provost, National Defence College, Centre for Strategic Research and Studies, Professor Adam Ahmed Okene, illicit drug use in Nigeria was pandemonium.

Speaking on the rising cases of illicit drug use in Nigeria he said that it was worse than HIV and Coronavirus.

Okene, who spoke in Abuja, said Nigeria as a nation should stand firm to tackle the menace, just as the provost called for drug tests for all public officeholders in the country.

He said: “The rising case of illicit drug use, has made it become pandemonium. It is now worse than HIV, and worse than Coronavirus, and it is now worse than any serious crime. With rising cases of drug abuse, Nigeria has been consumed.

“Some political appointees and elected persons when they behave will know clearly that they are high on drugs and the same thing applies to some technocrats and some security personnel. So, it is widespread.

“Not just that every person that is holding power including the military, and security people are tested before they are given a very serious responsibility because leaders have a way of influencing followers. If they are known to misuse drugs, the tendency is that those that are behind them will also be involved.

“So, that is why I believe strongly that no one should be given any serious responsibility until the person is tested for drugs.”

He called on those that are responsible for drug legislation and administration of anti-drug use to be more proactive in tackling the incidences of drug abuse in the country.

“The bulk of the crime that is committed in this country can be traced to drug abuse or misuse of drugs, be it political, criminal, security even at home, social, economic, all can be linked to drug abuse. I think in the beginning, we never took the fight against drug abuse seriously in this country.

“Yes, during the military, there were draconian laws which fortunately some people had even called such laws should be returned where drug pushers were killed. But then after that, we went through a period where everything goes as far as the drug is concerned in this country,” Okene said.

Lagos case study

A study titled, “Crime and adolescent drug use in Lagos, Nigeria,” published in Sociology International Journal, also stated: “Besides crime and drug use being major public health challenges, the group that is most vulnerable to drug abuse is that which could most objectively be regarded as the drivers of Lagos’ economy in the foreseeable future.

“It is along this line that public policy has to compel the investment of appropriate intellect, social resources and a range of other resources to rescue these at risk population from being consumed by the deadly social conditions to which drug abuse have the capacity to expose them.

“While this study may not be sufficient to make generalisable predictions on the nexus between adolescents, drug abuse and criminality, it does point to a significant decisive pattern in drug consuming habit of adolescents in Lagos.

“The socioeconomic and political location of Lagos makes it not well protected from the challenges of drug and drug abuse. As a result, its youth must be provided jobs and relaxation resources that could lower their frustration such that the patronage of drugs as temporary means of escape from disappointing realities would no longer be attractive and irresistible.

“Consequently, this paper calls for further research to adequately understand the impact of drug use in Lagos particularly and Nigeria in general. Although the use of drugs is not entirely new in Lagos, its current prevalence does not only raise some public health, social welfare and law enforcement concerns to policy makers and executors, it now bothers the household and causes health threatening fright to residents.”

The study made several recommendations to reduce adolescents’ drug abuse induced trauma in society. It suggested that indigenous child socialisation that emphasises the concept of ‘omoluabi,’ meaning gentleman, should be reintroduced, strongly articulated and put into use.

The researchers said Law in Lagos should discourage indiscriminate drug economy and its patronage, and government should embrace community-based drug abuse control and behaviour monitoring of adolescents.

According to the study, public policy should empower social workers to partner with parents, teachers and workers at religious places in the socialisation of adolescents to embrace lives that do not tolerate drug abuse so as to ensure public safety and future sanity of Nigerian youths.

Identifying root causes as panacea

On his part, an Islamic Cleric, Sheikh Muhammadu Nuhu Khalid, also known as the Digital Imam, linked drug abuse to criminality, said the root causes of drug abuse should be identified to tackle the menace.

“Criminality is all about deviant behaviour and many reasons are showing that criminality is possibly unconscionable by the subsequent abuse of substances and drugs that is why you will have a very close relationship between criminality and brokenness.

“And insecurities are all about anxiety lack of confidence and lack of peace of mind and atmosphere. We’re not only to identify substance abusers but identify the root cause of that behaviour and also to create a guide on when that will be definitely a levelling gradual process and fill in the mind of a human being,” he said.

… Poverty reduction too

In a interview with the media, a Consultant Pharmacist, Dr. Lolu Ojo, said poverty reduction was an essential part of the strategy to tackle drug problems in Nigeria. Lack of gainful employment often make young men, especially those engaged in menial jobs, take solace in drugs and for extra power,” he said.

According to him, public awareness programmes and advocacy programmes must be intensified to highlight the dangers of drug abuse.

“Traditional and religious institutions must be involved. A community ‘No-drug Vanguard’ must be put in place to assist government efforts in this regard.

“Education is also key. Our public education system, today, is nothing but a travesty of its glorious past. The long years of neglect have turned our public primary, secondary and even tertiary institutions into drug havens. We must resuscitate the system and make them vibrant and true citadel of learning.

“The youths must be actively engaged in sports, entertainment and other vocations that will occupy their time, energy, and inquisitiveness.

“The distribution system must be sanitised to reduce the ease of access to drugs. Today, drugs are available anywhere and everywhere, mostly under the control of untrained hands.

“We must be creative in our actions to implement the demand and supply reduction strategies,” he added.