Substance Abuse And Battle Against Cancer Blessing Aseminaso

Substance abuse is a major global health challenge that has continued to pose great threat to the society and every year, the war against cancer has always taken the form of warning against smoking. The world cancer day this year, “I can, we can”, is an affirmation that with unity of purpose the world can overcome cancer.

The production, distribution, consumption and dependence on psychoactive substances to stimulate behavior has for long been a practice that persistently demand national attention. According to a World Drug Report in 2011 over 210 million or 4.8% of the world’s population use illicit substances yearly.

In Nigeria, a high prevalence of substance abuse has been recorded over the years especially amongst youths. Hardly a day goes by without an outcry report of drug abuse and addiction in various regions of the country. This “red alert emergency” as described by Muhammed Mustapha Abdallahi, the Chairman of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is one that has brought insanity, reduced many to nothing and birthed numerous crimes in the nation.

A 2018 European Union Report on National Drug Survey Use which asserts that about 14.3 million Nigerians within the age brackets of 15-64, are users of drugs and one out of four are women, helps paint a picture of the gigantic level of the menace.

Whereas the misuse of pharmaceutical drugs such as rohypnol, tramadol, codine, Tylenol, valium, etc keeps growing in proportion, the consumption of hard drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroine, black mamba, Indian hemp, as well as substances like lizard excrement and inhalants(gases or fumes from petrol, soak-away, paint-thiner, rubber solution, glue and correction fluid), in order to get a “high”, are now daily occurrences to be fueled by peer pressure and depression in most cases.

No doubt substance abuse poses great physical and mental health threats. A Prof. Ayo Adegoke-Craig  said that “Hard drugs can reduce a professor or president of a country to the level of a mechanic who is also on drugs. It does not discriminate; it will reduce you to its level until you become a scum to the society”. This statement by the 65 year old professor explains an aspect of the effect of drug abuse.

Issues like addiction, depression, heart disease, lung cancer, kidney failure, liver damage, memory impairment and death, amongst others, have all been linked to hard drugs. Besides, research have proven that drug and substance abuse are also capable of fueling terrorism, and other social crimes.

The huge amount of drugs like tramadol and the likes, reportedly discovered in dislodged Boko Haram camps is an affirmation that most were committed under the influence of drugs.

“I don’t know how I am going to explain this to my family, especially my wife who loved my late uncle so much. In fact, I was under the influence of alcohol. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have killed my uncle who took care of me”, were the words of 25-year-old Dodo Baraje, arrested in Niger State for allegedly killing his uncle in 2018.

A similar report is that of a 19-year-old boy arrested in Abia State for allegedly stabbing his neighbor’s daughter to death whilst under the influence of drugs. Other cases of crimes carried out under substance influence continue to be recorded and serves as proof of the relationship between substance abuse and criminal behavior.

Tobacco so far, has been identified to be a cancer risk factor. Its product is no doubt guaranteed to kill consumers, but cigarette smoking still continues to be widely practiced, despite the indication that “smokers are liable to die young”. It is imperative to note that the nicotine present in cigarette is a psychoactive drug that affects the central nervous system, alters mood, thinking, perception, behavior and stimulates dependence, which makes its excessive use a drug abuse.

A report by the Ministry of Health in 2017, revealed that about 4.5 million adults consume 20billion cigarettes sticks yearly, which is 5.6 percent of Nigeria’s population annually. Low and middle countries like Nigeria are also reported by WHO to account for 80 percent tobacco-related, morbidity and mortality rate, which serves as an eye opener to the dangerous effects of cancer like lung cancer, and respiratory damages.

With the recent emergence of shisha (a tobacco-based product with sweetened fruit flavours, designed to be smoked in a water pipe) which is virtually seen in nightclubs and bars and appears to be the common trend today, smoking has become an even greater concern to many.

Although, it is erroneously believed that shisha smoking is less harmful or addictive as in the case of cigarettes, various studies have proven that a single puff is nearly equal to the volume of smoke inhaled from an entire cigarette, as a forty minute session of smoking is roughly equivalent to smoking ten cigarettes.

Which is why the World Health Organization warns that it produces cancer causing chemicals including carbon monoxide that affects the respiratory system, phenols associated with cardiovascular diseases and polycyclic hydrocarbons that damages one’s DNA.

Many African countries like Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda have reportedly banned shisha smoking. The increased study on the negative effects of smoking also prompted its ban in public places by the federal government. As stated by Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole during the celebration of the world No Tobacco Day in 2018, the ban is a step to curb the increasing menace for the benefit of public health, although the lust over water pipe smoking by users still lingers.

Because health is wealth, it is necessary that better strategies for public enlightenments on the adverse effects of these substances be consistently carried out via various platforms, as well as strict law enforcement by National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, on perpetrators of hard drugs. Since psychotherapy is required for addicts, more rehabilitation centers should be built to handle cases of drug addiction. All hands must be on deck in the fight against substance abuse to make our society free from cancer and a safer place to live in.

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