Eradicating Drug Abuse in Nigeria...How Feasible?
Today drug abuse or drugs addiction is one of the most vexing and pervasive problems that almost all the countries have faced in the world including Nigeria. The consequence of such addiction, abuse, trafficking or even cultivation can be devastating; unfortunately the youths are the most vulnerable on hard drugs and this brings a lot of adverse effects on the community.
Sadly, the effects of drug addiction are felt on many levels. Individuals who use drugs experience physical effects due to their drug addiction. Many drug users engage in criminal activity, such as burglary and prostitution, to raise the money to buy drugs, and some drugs are associated with violent behaviour. Drugs addiction leads to psychological and physiological dependence. The term drugs abuse is used to indicate the excessive consumption of a drug, regardless of whether an individual is truly dependent on it. Drugs abusers are generally immature, suffering from mental and physical health hazards, emotionally disturbed and psychopathic in nature.
Beyond the personal health issues, beyond the devastating effect on families, beyond community crime statistics, drug addiction has a major impact on the Nigerian economy. Frankly speaking the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), experts in drug abuse treatment and policy makers, NGOs etc would definitely support my argument on the negative impacts of drug addiction on Nigeria's economy. This includes the cost of law enforcement, incarceration, treatments, traffic injuries, lost time in the workplace, etc. Put some of the factors together the alcohol-related and substance-abuse deaths on our streets and highways, the abuse of the health care system by addicts showing up at Emergency Rooms looking for drugs, the absenteeism on the job and the serious risk of HIV infection for those using needles. Family and friends feel the effects of drug addiction as well. The user who are preoccupied with the drug usually have changeable mood, which is likely to cause marital problems and poor work performance or dismissal. Drug addiction can disrupt family life and create destructive patterns of co-dependency; this problem is enormous and can ultimately hinder development across board in the society.
Although in a determined bid to reduce the rate of drug-related offences in Nigeria, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) have thankfully stepped up the fight against the consumption of and trafficking in illicit or hard drugs as the case may be. In a review of 2010 activity, the Chairman and CEO of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Alhaji Ahmadu Giade, noted that the agency nabbed 6,788 suspects. Of the number, 6,296 are men. The others are females. Too often, some travellers are caught at the international airports or other exit ports of the country with large consignments of narcotics, especially cocaine, cannabis or heroine. But despite the seeming huge catch, the drug trade is indeed booming, especially as Nigeria serves as a veritable transit point for the global drug trade. One of the reasons why this will remain so is the lack of the needed zeal on the part of both the agency and the judiciary to prosecute offenders. We believe that with expeditious and diligent prosecution of drug offenders, the number of cases will decrease. Also, the various laws dealing with drug offences need to be reviewed by our State and federal law makers.
In addition the NDLEA, can still raise the tempo of its effectiveness by investing even more on technological devices that can enhance its ability to detect hard drug traffickers or consumers to thwart and frustrate their efforts. Given the enormous damage narcotics do to humanity, no effort should be spared by any government to curb its menace. Another way of repositioning the Agency towards succeeding in its objectives is to ensure that the head of the organisation must appropriate a personality and image that advertise the campaign against drug trafficking. Only people sufficiently trained and armed with the required experience and expertise should mount the saddle. Further, the agency can raise the stakes of the war against illicit drug business by embarking on a sustained public enlightenment campaign using bill boards, radio/TV jingles, fliers, banners, pamphlets etc, all in a bid to highlight the dangers of drug abuse. The once-suggested plan to introduce the campaign against the use of hard drugs into secondary school curriculum should also be encouraged. The youths need to be deeply indoctrinated with the anti-drug message. This is definitely a war the Nigerian society cannot afford to lose.
Moreover, it is most heart-aching to know that there are tons of drugs in circulation which is either adulterated or of old NAFDAC numbers on them, or are outdated and still being consumed by ignorant and unsuspecting Nigerians residents alike. These drugs do not undergo severe preservations and as a result, lose its potency. Not even at this crucial moment when credit crunch is seriously taking toll on the people, which makes some of them to find it difficult to afford fees for consulting doctors, they are left with no option than to go on self medication which is another channel of drug abuse. Another dimension to this abuse is that most youths take addictive drugs that help boost their immune systems and this in some way, causes damage to the body. Even in Universities, there are cases where science students experiment with some chemical formula to produce certain drugs and they use it as energizers so as to help them reduce their fatigue and give them a chance to have more time for reading at night.
Too bad that many people in Nigeria still have access to buying and selling of drugs that is the reason why we have drug abuse in high condition. The first preventive measure that should be taken is to stop the normal access to these drugs and then begin issuance of certificates by certified medical practitioners. But in doing this, regulators have to put some medical scientists to sit and discuss the risk benefit factor before making this a law. Another preventive measure that I think should be put in place and even practicing already is the open campaign rally in public places like motor parks, NYSC Camps, secondary schools, Universities and other institution of learning because these are where we have youths populated.
Indeed, effective system of distributing pharmaceutical products will largely help to improving healthcare and reducing mortality in the country. There are some drug selling channels that are not meant to be in the system and these are open markets, kolanut sellers, inside buses, etc. The right channels ought to have been patent medicine stores, community pharmacies, private and public hospitals, wholesale/importers and pharmaceutical companies. Apart from this there should be a structured distribution network through partnership wholesaling and also set up a giant company responsible for ensuring smooth distribution of safe, effective and affordable drugs throughout the country. And again there should be more awareness; stakeholders should explore all avenues of information dissemination to the public just as I have mentioned earlier. NAFDAC under the leadership of Dr Paul Orhii as well as other related agencies have a lot to do, to genuinely safeguard the health of Nigerians against avoidable hazards.
However, with the right attitude and will, the quest to rid our society of drug cultivation, drug abuse and drug trafficking is what I truly believe is achievable. "Unless we reduce demand for illicit drugs, we can never fully tackle cultivation, production or trafficking. Governments have a responsibility to counteract both drug trafficking and drug abuse, but communities can also make a major contribution. Families, schools, civil society and religious organizations can do their part to rid their communities of drugs. Businesses can help provide legitimate livelihoods. The media can raise awareness about the dangers of narcotics." Those are the words of United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, during the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking 26 June, 2011.
Emmanuel Ajibulu is a social commentator and media expert, residing in FCT, Abuja, Nigeria.