Drug abuse, a ticking time bomb
By Ameh Ajekwonyilo
The question of drug abuse among Nigerian youths has raised animated debatea attracting various interest groups. What many do not know is that this problem is much bigger imagined as the situation is not limited by geography, gender, social status or age.
Prior to 2013, Nigeria was perceived as a transit nation for illicit drugs. Currently however, the country has been recognised internationally as user nation and mostly worrisome is the haunting presence of drug abuse in northern Nigeria; particularly Kano, Kaduna, Borno and lately, Niger.
A former Director General, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Otunba Lanre Ipinmisho notes that the consequences of uncontrolled use of alcohol and drug abuse have significantly placed a burden on Nigeria’s healthcare sector.
Positing that Nigeria’s future is worrisome given that almost half of its youths are on substance abuse, he added that: “It is very important to note that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation, because it is a common belief that only the healthy can tend to the needs of others. But, a nation where about 40 per cent of its youths are on drug abuse can be very disturbing. The implications of this cannot be overemphasised. How do you expect economic growth in a sick nation?”
Recent research findings by the National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 2009; revealed that 58 per cent of all alcohol, drug, and tobacco abuse-related costs paid by the federal and state government in United State were attributed to healthcare spending, amounting to more than $216 billion in 2005. Unfortunately, same cannot be said about Nigeria. It is even doubtful that the country has a database of what we are grappling with. Indeed the budgetary allocation to the health sector tells a story. Yet, Nigerians are entitled good health care and it is the responsibility of government to provide it.
On the challenge of northern youths and drugs, Kano, Kaduna, Borno and Niger are said to be the states with the highest cases of constant drug abuse in the country. Experts even claim that if you take an estimate of 10 boys, particularly in Kano, seven will be on drugs. An expert report disclosed that: “The problem in these areas could spread to other parts of the North, and Kaduna’s proximity to Abuja is worrisome. But even Abuja has its own issues and is not an exception because places like Wuse II, especially Banex Junction is a spot FCT Police Command should do something about.”
Otunba Ipinmisho in an interview stated: “I reported for the BBC from Kano and I have tracked this problem from that period. Young people sniffed fuel and what they call ‘solution’; while some even licked the backs of toads. I did a major report from the drugs rehabilitation centre at Dawanu, in Kano. Marijuana took on the popular moniker. “Mandula” in the 1990s in Kano, and was freely used in many areas of the largest city of Northern Nigeria. There was an interesting twist to the use of Mandula, that was directly linked to a popular song of the same title by the late blind Kano musician, Ali Makaho, that became a major hit at the time. He seemed to romanticise the use of the drug in that song; and young drug addicts turned the song into a kind of anthem. A military government of the period launched a major campaign against drugs and Ali Makaho, also called Ali Mandula, was recruited for the campaign and requested to do a song against the use of drugs! But the problem has persisted.
“We have done several reports about young girls in tertiary institutions in Northern Nigeria, who have taken to a frightening abuse of the cough syrup, Benylin with Codeine. The syrup is mixed with Coca Cola and has devastated many upper and middle class families in Northern Nigeria. A prominent leader recently pointed out that this problem is destroying even the mothers in homes. As the women have suffered abuses at home, the children have inducted their mothers to use Benylin as an escape from their abusive relationships and invariably get hooked. Over the past couple of years the abuse of the cough syrup has become so widespread that even secondary school students use it regularly.
“A friend once told me that if one noticed a child that seemed to behave with extra respect and seemed to recoil into himself/herself regularly, then there is the need for extra vigilance about what such a child has been up to or might be abusing.
“On the other hand, members of our ruling class are lost in the race for acquisition of wealth. They have never had quality time to assist the upbringing of children, who often develop tastes associated with capitalist consumerism. The parents indulge the children with money and luxuries in place of the parenting they cannot provide, as a means of appeasing guilty consciences. These children fall under the influence of peers who often suffer the same problems and together, they enter the world of drugs! It is not unusual to discover that children of members of our Northern elite move from rehab back into the world of drugs; the streets and back into rehab, to the eternal shame of these big men of society. In many cases, their over-abused wives are also lost in the morass of substance abuse.
“Although Benylin and Tramadol have now been banned with some pharmaceutical companies shut down at some point, not much has changed, because these drugs are still being abused, especially here in the North. Northern Nigeria sits atop a drugs abuse ticking bomb that can explode to destroy the fabric of our society forever.”