Drug abuse became a major societal problem in the country as a result of persistent economic recession. The menace developed gradually from the civil war period between 1967 and 1970 when youths were exposed to these drugs for effective combat performance. The devastating effect of the civil war was drug addiction which was prevalent among the demobilised soldiers. The disbanded troops were involved in smoking of Indian hemp, cannabis, heroine, cocaine and some other illegal substances to the detriment of their health.
It is disheartening to observe that one of the major causes of drug abuse amongst youth is the exposure to foreign influences through uncensored movies and television programmes. It is obvious that some parents are running permissive homes by allowing their children to watch pornographic and obscene audio-visual materials which are inimical to their wellbeing. Some youngsters cultivated the obnoxious and detestable act of taking drugs through documentaries they have watched at one time or the other.
Some of the youths are obsessed with material things of life. It is amazing to discover that seventy percent of psychiatric patients were discovered to be youths aged between sixteen and twenty-five through a research by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). A casual visit to a psychiatric hospital will reveal that large percentages of the youths are having mental illness and behavioral conditions.
The sorry state of our hospitals in Nigeria is worrisome. How do we explain the unavailability of drugs in our public hospitals otherwise known as “out of stock syndrome”? This development predisposes our youth to patronise patent medicine outlets where they dispense drugs without qualified doctor’s prescription.
What of the proliferation of fake, adulterated and sub-standard drugs that are being hawked by unlicensed sellers along the streets of our major markets in semi urban and rural areas?
The drugs vendors have caused a lot of havoc for the unsuspecting members of the public by selling expired drugs, fake drugs and adulterated drugs to them at cheaper prices, thereby exposing their lives to various health hazards.
In most cases consumption of hard drugs leads to depression, especially when sad and unpleasant thing happen to a person, he or she may opt for hard drugs to douse tension, which may ultimately become a habit, hence, drug abuse.
We cannot rule out the fact that peer pressure is one of the reasons why youths involve in drug abuse. It is apparent that youths get easily influenced to participate in some sharp practices. A lot of young men made confessional statement that friends lured them into patronising hard drugs and before they realize their mistakes, they become totally addicted to these harmful drugs. The damaging effects of the hard drugs are numerous, ranging from disorder of the nervous system, increase of heartbeat, dilation of the blood vessels and interference with the power of judgment to poisoning of the higher brain and nerve.
Drug abuse is a global phenomenon, it is not peculiar to Nigeria, and it cuts across all the countries of the world. You will recall that United Nations designated the period 1991 to year 2001 as UN Decade against Drug Abuse, purposely to create awareness and sensitise members of the public to the detrimental effect of drug abuse and dissuade our teeming youths from indulging in consumption of hard drugs.
As part of the painstaking efforts to eradicate drug abuse in Nigeria the Federal Government established the National Drug and Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) by decree No 48 of January 1990 to eliminate the growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, exporting and trafficking of hard drugs. The NDLEA and National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) were inaugurated to checkmate abuse of drugs.
Drug abuse requires multisectoral approach which must include educational and vocational counselling to orientate our students at all levels of education about the need to abstain from hard and harmful drugs.
There is need to introduce drug control campaigns which must involve the engagement of all relevant stakeholders. Not only this, the Ministry of Education should formulate drug free policies for schools which must attract strict penalties when contravened.
The government and non-governmental organizations need to build rehabilitation centers and create programmes that will incorporate social activities to prevent drug abuse amongst youths and the society at large.
The need to sensitise members of the public is germane to the realisation of this laudable objective to extirpate drug abuse and trafficking, hence, the government will need to intensify efforts on public enlightenment campaigns, and this is achievable through seminars and workshops, rallies, carnival floats, road shows, with intensive and aggressive campaign on conventional and social media platforms.
It is also expedient for the security personnel to ensure transparency is manning the country’s porous borders to prevent the importation of fake, sub-standard, adulterated and hard drugs. In addition, counselling units should be set up in various communities to educate the citizenry at the grassroots level. Parents and religious leaders have crucial role to play in upholding moral obligations of keeping youths in the right path.
It behooves on the government to intensify efforts on effective prosecution of drug barons in our society. In order to sanitise the polity, the government must take drastic punitive action on the drug barons that are found culpable of this offence.
We should not see the extermination of drug abuse in our society as a sole responsibility of the governments and its agencies. Everyone must take positive proactive steps to get rid of drug abuse and trafficking.
– Ajibike wrote from Ibadan
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