• Saturday, July 20, 2024
businessday logo


Curbing drug abuse and illicit trafficking

Drug abuse among youths at alarming rate, NDLEA warns

June 26 is the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1987, this day serves as a reminder of the goals agreed to by the Member States of creating an international society free of drug abuse. It aims to raise awareness of the major problems that illicit drugs present to society and at the same time, remind youths and adults not to make the mistake of experimenting with drugs.

The World Health Organisation defined substance abuse as “the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs.” It is estimated that about 76.3 million people struggle with alcohol use disorders, contributing to 1.8 million deaths per year. The United Nations reported that around 185 million people globally over the age of 15 were consuming drugs by the end of the 20th Century.

Drug abuse (addiction) involves compulsively seeking to use a substance, regardless of the potentially negative social, psychological and physical consequences. Certain drugs, such as narcotics and cocaine, are more physically addicting than some others.

One has control over the choice to start using drugs, but once addicted, the pleasurable effect of drugs makes one want to keep using them. There are lots of reasons why people take illegal drugs. Some use drugs to escape their problems while others are bored, curious or just want to feel good. People may be pressured into taking drugs to “fit in” with a particular crowd or they may take drugs to rebel or get attention.

Read also: Lessons from Lough Erne

Addiction is not just measured by how many times a person uses a drug. Some drugs are so addictive that they may only be used once or twice before the user loses control. A person crosses the line between abuse and addiction when he is no longer trying the drug to have fun but because he has come to depend on it.

People can become addicted to illegal drugs as well as drugs prescribed by doctors. When prescription drugs are taken the right way, they are safe and there is usually little chance of addiction. However, prescription drugs can be dangerous if they are abused (for example, taking too much or taking them when they are not needed). Mothers and guardians most often administer drugs to their children without going to health providers. This is also drug abuse. Some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs are painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs.

The more worrisome drugs being abused in our environment are marijuana, cocaine and alcohol. The drug abusers are mostly youth. This should be a source of concern to every one of us. While casual use of marijuana exists among the affluence, it is more common among school drop-outs, homeless and unemployed and unemployable that are acutely sensitive to all sorts of criminal behaviours.

The criminal activities of the drug users at their hide-outs (which are not hidden anyway) are now becoming too frequent for comfort. Some operate like cults, carving out their territories of influence where they intimidate, rape and rob innocent residents at will.

Residents of areas such as Abisogun Leigh Street in Ogba, Queen’s Drive (formerly Oyinkan Abayomi), Victoria Island, Adura Field in Alagbado and ‘Kuwait’ located inside Gowon Estate in Egbeda.

There was a particular incident I witnessed earlier this year when a whole street had to close its entrance doors when there was a fight by the Omo Amugbos, where guns were used around 8 am. Some, including children, fell into gutters while scrambling for safety.

Next, are forceful beggars who illegally obtain tolls from motorists on alternate roads when there is traffic on the highways. Some operate on the streets that one must obtain ‘clearance’ from when one buys a new car. If much was not achieved from ‘street begging,’ some

do enter mosques and churches to beg. Their tales usually range from having their wives critically ill at the hospitals, challenging to offset house rent or in need of money to eat.

It is important to illustrate what drugs such as marijuana do to the body and minds of the users. The smoke of marijuana is toxic. It can lead to serious disorders, including cancer. The negative effects also include confusion, acute panic reactions, anxiety attacks, fear and loss of self-control. Chronic marijuana users may develop a motivational syndrome characterised by passivity, decreased motivation, and preoccupation with taking drugs.

Like alcoholic intoxication, marijuana intoxication impairs judgement, comprehension, memory, speech, and problem-solving abilities. Of particular worry is the permanence of its ill-effect among people who began smoking in adolescence. Aside from the smokers, every one of us, as passive smokers is a potential victim of some of the ill effects. Yet, there is hardly any area in Nigeria free of this drug problem and the subsequent criminal behaviour of its users.

No doubt, when you give people a foothold, they take a stronghold. As such the gory tale of open use of marijuana is an indictment on the part of our security operatives, especially the anti-narcotic agency. The federally controlled security agency legalised this illegal drug through their illegal act of extorting money from traders. Some of them are also criminals in uniform who smoke at the same spots where criminal activities are planned and executed by hoodlums. The traditional standards and values that place additional responsibility on holders of public offices insane society are almost nil here in Nigeria.

The police, in particular, will in the years to come have much more to do if the trend of crime and behaviour that aids drugs are not given the attention it deserves now. Put, our anti-drug war is still cosmetic in approach. We will be fooling ourselves if we believe we are tackling the situation by merely sensitising people in motor parks and running jingles in the media without effectively starting the war from the production and distribution outlets. Treatment of the cause should be more important than its symptoms.

In sum, the anti-narcotic agency must step up the clampdown on the production, control of the sale, distribution and use of illicit drugs. Agencies of government saddled with national orientation and those with the responsibility of curbing crimes must be up and doing. In this regard, the Lagos State government’s establishment of the Drug-Free Club and plan to include drug abuse in its school curriculum is seen as right on spot.

As we celebrate this year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking globally, the lesson for us all to learn is that breaking the addiction to drugs is the only way to get off the hook. It may not be easy to quit. But the efforts will be rewarded by better health, better relationships with the people in one’s life and a sense of accomplishment that only living drug-free can give.

Make health your “new high” not drugs.

Musbau is of the Features Unit of Lagos State Ministry of Information