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How substance abuse education can prevent first time usage among young people

How substance abuse education can prevent first time usage among young people

Substance use is inarguably one of the challenges staving the potential of the 21st-century child. According to a 2021 World Drug Report, Nigeria could have 20 million drug users by the year 2030.

And the challenge is further exacerbated by the reality that many Nigerian students may no longer even believe in the dangers of substance abuse. According to the World Drug Report, though the potency of cannabis has quintupled in the last 24 years, the percentage of adolescents who perceived the drug as harmful fell by as much as 40 per cent, leading to more risk of first-time abuse in adolescents.

According to a 2018 study published by the South African Journal of Child Health, substance abuse among adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa is already at unprecedented heights. About 41.6% of youth have some experience with abusing substances, with alcohol and tobacco being the highest.

And today, substance use is highly publicised in the media. Although not all substance-related media entertainment content encourages the abuse of substances, they hardly constitute a substitution for substance use orientation among the young.

According to a UN report, by 2030, the number of substance users in Africa, the world’s youngest continent, will have increased by 40%

Substance abuse is a cancer, and like most cancers, is often terminal. But what is the solution?

Well, the data says that substance abuse education can be the best deterrent.

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In fact, in a 2018 study conducted by African Healthcare Services on substance use among secondary school students in Oyo state, it was found that the proportion of respondents who were substance abusers was significantly higher among students who had not received any formal lectures on substance abuse at school compared to those who had been taught.

To address this gap, non-profit initiatives, and government agencies have launched programmes and campaigns to raise awareness against substance abuse in youths.

But simply raising awareness is not enough. Because according to Natural High, a drug abuse prevention nonprofit, most adolescents misunderstand substance abuse statistics. Essentially, making substance abuse education accessible is one thing, but making it digestible for young people is another. It is to that end that the MTN Foundation has, through its Anti-Substance Abuse Programme (ASAP), created another platform to help make substance abuse education more entertaining and comprehensible for young students.

The MTN ASAP quiz competition, which aims to provide participants with the necessary information to make healthier personal choices and avoid risky situations that can predispose them to substance use, is one of many social intervention initiatives provided by the Foundation. The reasoning behind the quiz initiative was not a shot in the dark. In fact, a total of 18 public secondary schools took part in the competition, and the selection criteria ensured that the institutions represented were from regions of Nigeria where there is a high prevalence of substance abuse.

So far, the spirited competition has yielded finalists who will go head to head in Abuja for a chance to win the MTN ASAP quiz competition later in June.

With this initiative, there are no losers. Because the goal is to sensitise and impact the lives of young Nigerians, steering them away from the abyss of substance abuse and addiction. And even though initiatives like MTN Foundation’s ASAP quiz competition may just seem like fun extracurricular activities, they are here to save lives.