Before Our Youth Are Consumed Constance Gilbert
Given the high rate of killings across the land, it would not be out of place for Nigerians to be subjected to drug tests. Honestly, how this can be accomplished is unclear at the moment. But it underscores the point that we have a serious issue on our hands.
There are issues concerning the mental and psychological state of a good number of citizens, especially youths, in relation to illegal drug consumption. Recently, daredevil cultists and herdsmen embarked on widespread killings in different parts of the country including Rivers State. And drug use and abuse are obvious reasons why many youths have taken to heinous crimes.
Hard drugs are the source of dangerous crimes and health problems in our society today. Because of their regular abuse, drug-related incarceration has increased in the country’s prisons. Drug abuse is the deliberate use of chemical substances for reasons other than their intended medical purposes which results in physical, mental, emotional or social impairment of the user. In other words, abuse can happen when drugs are used wrongly and illegitimately.
Why are many Nigerian youths taking to massive drug consumption as a way of life? The reasons are peer group influence and depression and ignorance. Many drug addicts believe they need hard drugs to feel good. So, they are taken as routine medicines. That is why the fight against the plague has to be intensified before our youths are consumed.
The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have to be up and doing in this legendary battle by preventing the sale of pernicious drugs in the country. Both agencies must ensure that dangerous drugs like codeine, tramadol, diazepam etc. are only sold upon presentation of doctor’s prescription to address their abuse.
Punitive measures have to be instituted against erring medical doctors in this regard.
It is hard for anyone to dispute the expansive deglutition of hard drugs in Nigeria, especially in the northern part of the country. For instance, recently released statistics indicate that about three million codeine are consumed in Kano and Jigawa States annually.
The situation is so awful that some residents of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in North East are involved in this misconduct. While girls take dangerous cough mixtures and other drugs with codeine to get ‘high’, boys use cocaine, heroine and Indian hemp. Indian hemp is the most frequently expended drug perhaps because it is home-grown and so easily accessible. It is also cheap. Because of its effect in mood alterations, poor and uneducated youths have found ally in it to their detriment.
Precarious drugs are ingested in virtually all sections of the country. For example, between October and November last year, officials of the NDLEA, Bayelsa State Command, arrested 77 illicit drug suspects. The command says tramadol, codeine and diazepam were among drugs absorbed by youths in the state.
Youths who are into drug abuse have to be educated on their effects more so when it has been established that reckless use of hard drugs can destroy the kidney and make the victims vulnerable to cancer. It also leads to increase in crime rate, mental disorder, child abuse, domestic violence, rape as well as homelessness and poverty.
For these reasons, access to illicit drugs must be restricted. Unrestricted access to drugs and poor regulatory framework are part of the reasons for the astronomical increase in their unauthorized use. Governments and law enforcement agencies in the country must obviate this. Additionally, the existence of many unregistered and illegal medicine outlets and open drug markets all over the country make it easier for Nigerians to source some of these drugs without prescription.
The recurring hazard of drug misuse and abuse is taking unprecedented toll on the health of consumers. What the development requires is immediate erection of rehabilitation centers across the country to assist in quick rehabilitation of drug addicts.
To check this, governments and all stakeholders must collaborate and design ways to prevent access to dangerous substances. Also, drug regulation must be made stronger to thwart distribution chains. Open drug markets in major cities have to be identified and dismantled as well.
Nigerians should be properly enlightened on the dangers of hard drugs and be made to purchase drugs with prescription from only registered pharmacies as is the case in civilized climes. NAFDAC and NDLEA have to synergize to stem the wanton abuse of drugs that promote high crime rate currently experienced in the country.