The devastating consequences of drug use know no geographic, economic, social, or ethnic boundaries. Each year hundreds of thousands of people around the globe – rich, poor, educated, illiterate, male, female, and even young children die from drug abuse, and millions more are victims of addiction and drug-fueled violence.
Beyond the toll drugs take on health and welfare, substance use disorders undermine economic development, diminishes social and political stability, and reduces security in countries and regions around the world.
It is no longer news that 70% of youth in Nigeria today get themselves involved in one form of drug abuse or the other.
Amidst the widespread commendations over the ban of codeine by the Federal Government, a new large-scale nationwide survey has revealed that drug use by people within the ages of 15 and 64 years in Nigeria is on the rise.
A survey on drug use in Nigeria last year had revealed that the nation is breeding a wild generation of drug addicts. This gory state of affairs of substance abuse calls for the declaration of a state of emergency, considering the fact that the youth population is the fulcrum of national development.
The nationwide survey by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) funded by European Union (EU) in partnership with the Federal Government said 10.6 million Nigerians abused cannabis in 2018, while 4.6 million abused opiods.
The report said that 2.4 million youths and adults also abused cough syrups with 92,000 more using cocaine. Other drugs commonly abused during the period are tranquilizers and sedatives, solvent, inhalers, amphetamines and prescription stimulants.
This survey also reports that one of four drug users in Nigeria is a woman. Adding that the extent of drug use in Nigeria is comparatively high compared to previous global annual prevalence of any drug abuse use.
Basically, youths in the country inhale, inject and consume psychotic and narcotic substances and drugs at will, easily evading the scrutiny of a society distracted by economic malaise at the expense of their future wellbeing.
Truth be told, the impact of drug abuse is lethal. Many families are contending with drug addicts; some of them have quit schooling and work; others are on the verge of lunacy or battling with acute diseases.
The number of drug users in Nigeria is estimated at 14.4 per cent or 14.3 million people aged between 15 and 64 years according to the results of the National Drug Use Survey. The data suggests that the prevalence of past year drug use in Nigeria is more than twice the global average of 5.6 per cent.
The extent of drug use in Nigeria is comparatively high when compared with the 2016 global annual prevalence of any drug use of 5.6 per cent among the adult population.
There is a gap in meeting the needs for treatment and care for people with drug use disorders. With close to three million Nigerians living with some level of drug dependence, the extremely limited availability of drug counselling and treatment services exacerbates this health crisis.
This is indeed striking and alarming and calls for concerted efforts to mitigate the negative consequences of this rising menace on the health, socio-economic and security of our nation.
Even though the Federal Government has over the years responded boldly to this global challenge with innovative, standard-setting drug demand reduction programs, we are of the opinion that there is need to solve the problem.
Awareness programmes need to be developed to address the perception of stigma among the youth and their families over substance use and to remove barriers towards seeking care for these problems.
These programmes should also address the inability of the youth to perceive addictive behaviours as a health risk.
Parents and support persons’ involvement and engagement in youth programmes should be strengthened further as it improves communication and better decision-making for youth health issues.
Family-based prevention programmes emphasising parenting skills, training or improving family functioning, communication and family rules regarding substance abuse needs to be introduced.
Also, teachers are a major source of information to young people. Hence, strengthening the role and performance of educational institutions, ensuring availability of counselling services, gender sensitivity issues, making life skills courses a part of curriculum are required for health and welfare of young people.
Most importantly, in all youth related programmes, young people should be involved and engaged to empower them to take informed decisions.