Psychiatrists have urged federal and state governments to ensure the provision of more facilities for rehabilitation and subsidising the cost of care for drug users.
The experts who said the law regulating mental health services in the country is very obsolete, also called for urgent passage of the Mental health and substance abuse Bill which is before the National Assembly.
In his presentation, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Jos, OBINDO, JAMES TAIWO said recent studies have shown that the global prevalence of drug or substance abuse is quite high.
Taiwo who is also a Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist with the Jos University Teaching Hospital, spoke on the topic “drug use and the Nigeria criminal justice system: from antiquity to the modern times” during a ebinar orgainsed by Charis Healthcare Initiative, with support from Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.
According to him, the past year prevalence of any drug use in Nigeria is estimated to be 14.4%, which is 14.3 Million people aged between 15 and 64 years, adding that this is more than twice the global estimated annual prevalence of drug use pegged at 5.6% among adult population.
Prof Taiwo however said like every other disease, addiction can be prevented and treated.
He said, “rather than incarcerating drug abusers, the criminal justice system should collaborate with the Health System to help to get them into treatment. Incarceration, as noted above, has deleterious consequences on the drug users. Individuals who are dependent on alcohol or tramadol may through fits/ convulse few days of being incarcerated because of the withdrawal effect of the substances and may die if not given immediate and proper medical attention. Drug users may be compelled to go into treatment as an alternative to incarceration.”
He however emphasized that there is a need to differentiate users from peddlers or barons, stressing that the quantity found on them can be a good guide.
He said drug peddlers and drug barons should be made to face full wrath of the law, saying various reports would suggest that the peddlers and barons are often spared by the law as most people apprehended are mere users.
He further recommended the Non-criminalization of drug use, a collaboratory relationship between the criminal justice system and the health care services as well as provision of more facilities for rehabilitation and subsidising the cost of care
In her presentation, Dr Aishatu Yusha’u Armiya’u of the department of Psychiatry Forensic Psychiatry Unit, Jos University Teaching Hospital said treatments have been found to cut drug abuse to half, cut down criminal activity and hence reduce arrest.
She however said though legal pressure might be needed to put an individual into treatment and keep them in treatment.