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Drug abuse among youths at alarming rate, NDLEA warns

The rate of drug abuse among Nigerian youths is shooting through the roof, endangering the productive potential of a vast youth population needed to drive a more vibrant economy, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) warned on Tuesday.

Buba Marwa, chief executive officer of the agency who spoke during the 2022 edition of the Anti-Substance Abuse Programme (ASAP) co-convened with MTN Nigeria, said the drug problem has become so prevalent that it requires deliberate actions to nip in the bud.

About 14.3 million youths were involved in substance abuse as of 2018, based on National Drug Use Survey and there are new signs that the figures have grown higher four years after.

Worried by the spate of new entrants into the fast-expanding cycle of drug abuse, the agency in collaboration with the foundation is targeting potential first-time abusers through the ASAP quiz competition for secondary school students across the country. The goal is to raise awareness of substance use among young people aged 10 to 25 and strengthen their mindset against the peer push to engage in abuse.

“The expectation is that the competition will spur the introduction of drug prevention activities that will birth peer educators and peer counsellors among students. You should be able to speak to your friends, parents and neighbours about why drug use is inimical to youth. If you want to grow, you have to avoid drug use,” said Shadrack Haruna, NDLEA secretary, who represented Marwa.

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The competition brought together participants from 12 schools across six states including the federal capital territory, Abuja. Some of the participating schools were Government Secondary School, Ilorin; Delta – Government Model Secondary Asaba and Government Secondary School Owerri.

The activity also marks the international day against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking elimination, marked every June 25 by the United Nations to reinvigorate efforts at strengthening action to achieve a society free of drugs.

Odunayo Sanya, executive secretary, MTN Foundation said secondary students are in between their formative years, a period when they start making the transition to becoming adults and need adequate guidance to make better decisions for the future.

If the country would birth its dreams, Sanya said there is a need to focus on the huge youthful population, placing a reduction in the rate of first-time substance abuse among young Nigerians at the core.

She noted that as part of the foundation’s commitment to enabling individuals, institutions, organisations and communities to be better off, the foundation is funded by up to one percent of MTN Nigeria’s profit after tax since 2005, which is then channelled to activities such as ASAP.

And since the programme began in 2019 virtually, it has recorded significant awareness and an increase in the number of people reached by the message, Sanya added.

“We expect that you will take the message back to your classrooms, homes, and communities that our future is better off when we don’t touch drugs and stay away from negative peer influence. We want to deepen and broaden awareness of substance, to assess the level of awareness and knowledge of substance abuse,” Sanya said.

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