Drug use on the rise among Nigerian youths

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More Nigerian youths are becoming drug addicts, while Nigeria gradually graduates from a drug consuming nation to a drug producing one. Weekly Trust reports

Despite efforts being put by Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) operatives towards fighting the menace of illicit drugs production, circulation, marketing and consumption, more people are being recruited daily by drug barons to serve as couriers just as many more, especially youths are increasingly becoming addicted to assorted drugs. In Abuja, the nation’s capital, many youths, mainly from well-to-do homes are increasingly joining the ‘big boys club’ that abuse drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Other form of drugs like Indian hemp, which is commonly produced in Nigeria and others like methamphetamine, syrups and tablets with codeine capable of intoxicating are mostly found in military barracks, schools, motor parks and even with local traders that sell provisions in kiosks.

 Assorted illicit drugs that include mainly Indian hemp and amphetamine were recovered from suspects arrested within the FCT by the NDLEA. Other drugs like cocaine, heroin and some pharmaceutical products on the restricted list found in custody of unauthorized or wrong persons were also recovered.

A convicted drug addict who served his two-year jail term at the Central Prison in Benin City before relocating to Abuja after his release, Mr. Godswill Akatagbo told Weekly Trust that Abuja is a potential haven for illicit drugs after Lagos and Port Harcourt. Though Akatagbo refused to say whether or not he is still into illicit drugs deal, he gave an insight into the business in the nation’s capital. “Majority of drug consumers in Abuja are young men and women who are mostly from well-to-do families. They sometimes come to a place near Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja to buy 3 or 4 wraps of cocaine that cost N2,500 each. You cannot count the number of teens that come around to buy cocaine. There are a few advanced men and women but majority of the customers are the young ones. Some agents even hawk drugs. The mobile agents sell on commission.”

Akatagbo’s observation on the increase in drugs deals in Nigeria was confirmed by Nigeria’s country representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ms. Mariam Sissoko when she said that the International Narcotic Control Board (INCB) has identified smuggling of amphetamine-type stimulants as a new threat in Africa. She said most methamphetamine intercepted on illicit markets in East Asia was found to have originated from West Africa with Nigeria standing the risk of becoming a hub for methamphetamine smuggling.

Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Ahmadu Giade expressed concern over the emergence of illegal laboratories for the production of illicit drugs. He said that the NDLEA had discovered two clandestine laboratories installed for the illicit production of methamphetamine in Lagos. The first laboratory was discovered in July 2011 and two Nigerians are currently being prosecuted while the second laboratory was detected in February this year. Three Bolivians and a Nigerian are currently under investigation in respect of the latter.

According to the head of clinical services, Drug and Alcohol Treatment Education and Rehabilitation Unit at Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Kaduna, Dr. Ebiti Williams, over 6million bottles of codeine are sold on a daily basis in the North-West part of the country. National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) report of 2010 also shows that over 11% of people in the North-West zone use drugs. He also said due to the rise in drug addiction, young people make use of cough syrups to make themselves high. “We have had few newspaper reports where people kill owners of pharmacy shops or chemists because they refused to sell codeine to them,” he said.

In the northern part of the country, according to the doctor, younger people abuse prescription drugs almost much more than what is referred to as illicit drugs. He disclosed that majority of patients who visit their facility are those who use combination of substances. “We don’t have people that use single substance; some take cocaine, heroin, codeine, cannabis and alcohol at the same time,” he said. Speaking on what addicts benefit, he said that they derive a ‘high’ from the drugs while some said it makes them feel very elated; it makes some have a sense of happiness and often times make them forget about their problems or challenges while it inspires others to write, sing, draw and do so many other things.

On what the drug does to the system, Dr. Ebiti stated that the human brain usually rewards a person in a particular manner. He noted that the drugs affect the reward system of the brain to the extent that when they don’t get the drug, it begins to affect them. Presently now, in the whole of Kaduna State and many other states in the country, there are no treatment places for those who use substances. The Federal Neuro-psychiatric Hospital, he said can only take about 30 persons which he said is incredibly small compared to the hundreds of thousands of people that would require treatment in the state.

According to Amina Duniya, a sociologist and psychologist, there are different kinds of drugs including the hard drugs and the prescribed drugs. “When you abuse any of them, it becomes drug abuse. When we talk of drug abuse, it could be the hard drugs including cocaine, weed among others and when we talk about prescribed drugs we mean codeine even though it’s meant for medication some people use it for something else,” she explained. She said, “Recently, I went to a pharmacy to buy drugs and a boy just came in and asked for Codeine and he was given; right in front of me, he shook the bottle and drank the whole bottle after he finished he asked for water and left. It was surprising that the pharmacy attendants did not even see anything wrong with what the boy did.”

Mr. Pius Akuchi, a psychologist with the Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi said, “Most cases of drug abuse and addiction start with peer group pressure. Such people are usually influenced by their peers. Psychologically, if they don’t participate in what their peers are doing, they feel unfulfilled.” He is critical of private rehabilitation centres, saying, “Those private rehabilitation houses springing up across the country, most of them don’t have full-fledge and complete structure of professionals. This is because of the cost implication of hiring the line of professionals, psychiatrist, psychologists, social workers and other staff. Some of them do forget the scientific aspect of handling the cases of the patients, they tend to make it solely spiritual, by embarking on prayers, fasting etc, or they will say it is witchcraft etc.”

Dr. Michael Amedu a Senior Registrar at the Psychiatry Department, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria explained that drug addiction is a case peculiar with people between the ages of eighteen and twenty. Though there are cases recorded of people younger and older than this age range. He explained that these substances referred to as volatile substances or inhalants could be fumes from petrol, glue, nail polish, paint, chemicals to dilute paints, bases of gutters, codeine in some medicines, and other such agents. “Addicts inhale these directly or pour them on pieces of clothing which they put over their noses and inhale. They also pour the substances in waterproof bags,” he said. “Also in locations like factories where the concentration of such chemicals are high addicts sit in the room and simply inhale the chemicals.”

A herbal and medical practitioner in Abuja, Dr. Adewusi Oyawoye said, “With what we see every day, Nigeria might soon top the list of countries with the highest intoxicants because everyday these youths come up with new and easy ways to go about intoxicating themselves. Because there are laws restraining people from abusing some of these drugs, these kids have resorted to using lizard dung and gadagi (a substance resembling tea leaves) which are normally easy and cheaper to afford. It is believed to be the poor man’s alternative to cocaine. Lizard excrement is used in a variety of ways. Some prefer it as part of a cocktail produced from Robin Blue Powder, the popular fabric brightener, as well as medicinal herbs and seeds from a fruit called Zaqami, a quick-acting substance that puts the user in a daze 30 minutes after ingestion.”

According to users, lizard excrement produces a strong effect when mixed with Robin Blue. That effect is said to be similar to the one produced by a heavy consumption of whisky. The white portion of the droppings is a killer drug. When inhaled or taken orally they cause rapid rise in blood levels, producing an effect akin to the intensity produced by an intravenous injection. The feeling produced also resembles inebriation.

Dr. Oyawoye said, “What we need to do as a society is to put hands together to see that we can curb some of these intoxicants that have become irresistible to some humans in the society. There is a huge cost in social, health and economic terms if we do not bring a halt to these activities of our youths in the society.”

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