By Genevive Okafor with agency reports

Participants at a workshop on the dangers of drug abuse and addiction to national development have decried the involvement of Nigerian youths in the deviant act. They blamed the prevalence of the act partly on poor parental upbringing and bad peer group influences, among others. Participants at the capacity building workshop, organised by Green Crescent Health Development, in collaboration with International Federation of Green Crescent, were drawn from community-based non-governmental organisations. The theme of the workshop is: “Universal Addiction Advocacy Campaign Intervention.”

The United Nations Office on Crime and Drugs, UNODC, listed cannabis saliva as   the most commonly abused drug in Nigeria, by youths  between 20-29 years. Dr Mohammed Audi, the President of Green Crescent Health Development, stressed the need to support drug addiction prevention and also invest in the youths and other vulnerable population.

The prevention campaign, according to him is aimed at promoting healthy behaviour. Audi said that keeping drug use prevalence low and continually reducing it remained the best prevention, noting that preventing harm from occurring is the most cost-effective. He also said that drug policies must be “human rights-based, gender sensitive and age appropriate.’’

Mr Khaleel Abdullahi, a legal practitioner, said that drug problem is as old as man, noting that no society is insulated from the negative consequences of illicit drugs. He, however, said that the issue assumed worrisome dimensions at the end of the Second World War, following the return of some Nigerian soldiers from Burma and India.

Abdullahi said that some of the soldiers returned home with the seeds of the cannabis saliva which they experimented, and discovered it could do well in some parts of the country. He noted that, with time, the cultivation of cannabis sativa became popular, while the consumption also expanded. He added that addiction, in all its ramifications remained the principal cause of low productivity, social vices, crimes, diseases, upheavals, suicide and political rascality in the world. Abdullahi said that substance addiction, such as drugs and alcohol cause clinical and functional impairments and disability, which sometimes lead to failure to meet major responsibilities.

According to him, behavioural addiction is what an individual learn over time and becomes part of such individual, which include gambling, playing cards, chess and ludo, among others. “Technological addiction on the other hand is also known as Internet Addiction Disorder, it is a new phenomenon, but already taking a new dimension in health practice.’’

The legal practitioner noted that though alcohol addiction is part of substance addiction, but Nigerian law permits the licensing of breweries and beer parlours. The only warning it gives according to the lawyer is, “Drink responsibly” or “Do not drink and drive.” He stated that technological addiction, according to the Nigerian law, is yet to be regulated, the duration somebody stays online or a particular site, or a site a child should not visit.

On gambling and other games of chance, he stated that the Nigerian law is not discouraging gambling, but rather encouraging it. According to him, the Nigerian law does not frontally address tobacco addiction, even with the existence of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015. “Companies are only asked to advertise that smoking kills or the failed attempt that no one should smoke in public gatherings.’’

The legal practitioner noted that these statements were too charitable, adding that the implementation of the act is required to address addiction. Abdullahi also said that the campaign on addiction prevention should be taken down to all strata of the society, especially schools where the leaders of tomorrow are being groomed. He called on government agencies entrusted with mandate to fight addiction to live up to their responsibilities and ensure they recruit the right people for the  jobs.

Dr Yusuf Misau, Department of Community Medicine, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, said that addiction in whatever form has become a silent reality that Nigerians should worry about. He said that “drug abuse is a curse on the society because it comes at heavy cost with terrible implication on the individual and the community at large.

“Whether chemical, behavioural or digital, is a scourge not only in the individual’s brain, but also on the vast majority of communities in Nigeria and the majority of concerned citizens crave to live in communities free from addiction and addiction related harm.’’

Dr Tajudeen Abiola of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Kaduna, called for a comprehensive community-wide action to curb the problem. He said that the problem should be solved through an integrated and evidenced-based approach, adding that there must be community involvement.

According to him, we are painfully aware of the destructive impacts in our nations of alcohol, tobacco and gambling industries. “We are deeply concerned about the emergence of online gaming, among others, that promote drug use and e-gaming for private profit, causing substantial harm, especially to the youths and vulnerable group.’’

On his part, Mr Abdullahi Baba-Husseini, Assistant Comptroller General, Narcotics, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, said that collective effort was the only panacea to addressing the challenges of substance abuse. He disclosed that no fewer than 14 per cent of Nigerians abuse different substances through addiction, disclosing that the substances mostly abused are tramadol and benylin with codeine, adding that high percentage of women were involved in drug abuse.

He said the agency has stepped up strategies to create awareness on drug abuse and its dangers, and called on state governments to include drug education in school curriculum, and that with the inclusion of drug education in school curriculum, young people would be aware of the dangers inherent in indiscriminate drug use.

Baba-Husseini added that with rising population, the agency had low manpower to tackle the growing addiction, stressing that more partnership was needed to tackle drug addiction in the country.

AljazirahNigeria  reports that though often perceived to be a problem of the inner city, substance abuse has long been prevalent in rural areas. Rural adults have higher rates of alcohol abuse, tobacco use, and  methamphetamine use, while prescription drug abuse and heroin use has grown in towns of every size.

Substance abuse can be especially hard to combat in rural communities due to limited resources for prevention, treatment, and recovery. According to The 2014 Update of the Rural-Urban Chartbook, the substance abuse treatment admission rate for nonmetropolitan counties was highest for alcohol as the primary substance, followed by marijuana, stimulants, opiates, and cocaine.

Substance abuse can result in increased illegal activities as well as physical and social health consequences, such as poor academic performance, poorer health status, changes in brain structure, and increased risk of death from overdose and suicide.

This topic guide covers the effect of substance abuse on rural communities, broadly. For information and resources specific to the opioid crisis, see the Rural Response to the Opioid Crisis topic guide. Low educational attainment, poverty, unemployment, high-risk behaviours, and isolation have been revealed to be factors contributing to substance abuse in rural communities.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, Country Office for Nigeria and Regional Office for West Africa organized a meeting in Lagos on 24 and 25 July 2019 to discuss the findings of a study on tramadol and other pharmaceutical opioids trafficking in West Africa funded by the European Union, EU. The study will be published by the end of the year.

Trafficking of pharmaceutical opioids and their non-medical use has reached an alarming state in West Africa. Recalling the recent UNODC 2018 Report on Drug Use in Nigeria, the Country Representative, Oliver Stolpe noted in his opening remarks at the meeting that “by now, Nigerians living with a drug use disorder outnumbered, by far, people living with HIV and AIDS in the country.” The availability of pain medication remains an issue in West African countries, and there is a need to strike a balance between restricting the non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids and ensuring their availability for the treatment of pain.

The data for the study titled “At the crossroads of licit and illicit drugs: tramadol and other pharmaceutical opioids trafficking in West Africa” was collected in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Niger, Nigeria, and Togo between September 2018 and May 2019. Further the discussion brought to the fore the need to harmonise the regulation of pharmaceuticals in the region and strengthen control on the supply chain without impeding access to medication within country settings, and to develop drug demand reduction strategies. The meeting heard how the change in the regulatory environment in India in 2018 has resulted in a significant reduction in illegally trafficked tramadol being imported into West Africa, and that there is a need to monitor the evolution of tramadol availability and if different pharmaceuticals or non-pharmaceutical opioids will fill the actual void.

Within the framework of the UNODC Opioid Strategy, the event also presented an opportunity for the Global Synthetics: Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting, SMART, Programme to present UNODC Laboratory and Scientific Section precursor field test kits and the manual on Clandestine Manufacture of Substances under International Control to representatives of the three countries (Ghana, Nigeria and India) who have been involved in joint operations to curb tramadol trafficking.

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