Early this month, Northern Governors Forum, NGF had cause to implore the federal government to declare a state of emergency on drug abuse in the country. This came out of their worry over the increasing incidences of indulgence in psychotropic substances by youths in the North in particular and the country in general. Rising from a meeting in Kaduna, the governors disclosed that they were particularly worried that the abuse among youths was escalating in the face of the attendant physical and psychological tolls it takes on them, in spite of the various measures initiated by governments at various levels to stem the tide.
Given the speed with which the contagion of drug and substance abuse is spreading across the youth demography in the country, there is, indeed, an immense cause for worry. Abuse of psychotropic drugs such as amphetamine and narcotic drugs like codeine, tramadol and all other ethical drugs is a highway to impaired kidney, hypertension, cancer, neurological disorder, destitution and sudden death.
Cases abound this year alone of youths’ sudden death as a result of tramadol abuse. It claimed a youngman’s life in Abraka Ethiope-east local government area of Delta State. In the same Delta, a student of Army Day Secondary School, Effurun, Uvwie local government area slumped in class and died. Autopsy revealed tramodol abuse. In Ohafia local government area of Abia State, a junior secondary school student died after popping 10 tablets of tramadol. As revealed by Abia State commandant of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Mr. Akindele Akingbade, the teenager took it to enhance his performance in his school’s inter-house sports.
Tramadol is classified as a narcotic pain reliever for treating or moderating severe pain but youths have found a way of getting high on it through popping of excessive dosage. It also serves them as performance enhancer especially for sex. There are laws guiding the use of controlled drugs like tramadol and amphetamine in the country, what has been lacking is the enforcement of the laws. Due to high demand, dealership in psychotropic and narcotic drugs has today, become big business in the country. Just this week, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) disclosed that it seized 159 million tablets of tramadol in Apapa Port, Lagos. Director, Technical Services, NDLEA, Mr Femi Oloruntoba, in a public hearing, organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Drugs and Narcotics and Health in Abuja further disclosed that 50 tonnes of tramadol was recently destroyed in Kano alone. He noted that about 31 different substances are being abused in the country since 2016.
The problem of Nigeria’s porous borders and the extant rule which forbids National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) from operating in the seaports share part of the blames for increased unlawful circulation of psychotropic and narcotic drugs in the country.
The key findings from drugs and substance poll conducted in July 1, 2013 by NOI Polls Limited is that the rise in drug and substance abuses in the country anchor strongly on poverty and unemployment.
Senate president, Bukola Saraki at the Senate event on drug abuse, observed that drug and substance abuses “has led to incidences of armed robbery, kidnapping, militancy and other vices which have become a challenge to internal security.” Unfortunately, he said, “some of our youths who could become the leaders of tomorrow are caught in the quagmire of substance-abuse. This is a threat to their health and wellbeing and a threat to their families so we must stem this tide.”
The abuse of substances among our youths today, include the inhalation of adhesives, which is pandemic in the North and the smoking of all manners of things that range from marijuana to human and animal waste.
Experts have found out that parental monitoring have a huge role to play in checking youth drug abuse. It is recommended that parents should monitor their adolescent children by examining their eyes, breath and body smell as well as closely keep an eye on how they react, talk, feel and their mood changes. Changes noted from any if these could serve as a red flag.
In the area of policy framework, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) mulls the idea of a prescription policy in the country, which would enable PSN know who is doing what in the area of ethical drugs sales and administration.
To also stem the tide, northern governors suggest that all state governments should set up high powered enforcement committees under the chairmanship of either the deputy governor or secretary to the state government. The committee they say, would ensure at all times the effective implemention of the relevant laws and statutory provisions in respect of drug abuse. They also enjoined state ministries of women and youth to intensify sensitization and enlightenment programmes on the dangers of drug abuse. Within the North, the governors resolved to come up with appropriate legislation through the various houses of assembly to combat drug and substances abuse in the region.