By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
The concern has formed several funeral homilies. At its height was a concern raised by a cleric in one of his funeral sermons that our society is in the fringe of witnessing a generation gap as demand for young men who are capable of siring children will be on the rise in the nearest future. This is courtesy of the increase in drug addiction by our youths.
This trend is assuming a very embarrassing dimension on daily basis and as well progressing in a geometric proportion. The list is becoming endless: tramadol, jegemi, blue tongue.Even drugs that are designed to serve some useful clinical purposes are now grossly abused such as diazepam.
The concern for the rate of drug abuse is now a bug that transcends the religious world. Recently, there was a prediction by the Drug-Free Arewa Campaign Movement that Nigeria will have a generation of mad people in the next 20 years, if the issue of drug abuse and trafficking are not addressed.
Ibrahim Yusuf, Lead Convener of the movement, made the assertion during an advocacy visit to the Kaduna State Attorney-General, Umma Hikima.
According to the Lead Convener, “The level of drug abuse in the northern region was alarming and require collective action by all stakeholders to tame it’. The group in its efforts to intensify awareness against the dangers of drug abuse and trafficking, walked along some streets of Kaduna.
One of the concerns raised by Yusuf was anything less heart-warming. “Future leaders are currently trapped by the menace of drug and substance abuse and if not rescued will give birth to a generation of mad people with unimaginable consequences”.
“Our campaign against drug trafficking and abuse intends to position youths in Northern Nigeria as leaders with capacity to emulate the excellent leadership skills of our founding fathers.
“And we can only achieve this by addressing drug abuse and free our youths from its trap.”
In additional efforts, the group is urging the attorney general to ensure that all relevant laws to stem the circulation of illicit drugs were enforced and traffickers effectively punished, so as to take the drugs off the streets. The group is also seeking partnership with the ministry of justice in creating sustained awareness among youths in the state to shun drugs and live decent lives.
The group says it has reached out to 23 million youth across the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory with information on how to avoid drug addiction or lured into drug trafficking.
The worries over drug aby in the country are coming in torrents. There is a projection that about 90 per cent of the youth population in the country are involved in one form of drug abuse or the other.
It will be recalled last year that Dr Abubakar Bagudu, consultant psychiatric with the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBTH), Bauchi, raised an alarm that eight out of every 10 patients brought to the mental clinic of the hospital are youths who abused drugs.
Bagudu further disclosed that drug abuse among young people had led to depression and high level of suicide.
The consultant’s claim buttressed a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report that half of all mental health cases started from age 14. The report added that most cases went undetected.
Bagudu also noted that the ugly trend has compelled the psychiatry department of the teaching hospital to create awareness among post-primary school students. It was also reported that Bauchi was among the states with a high rate of codeine abuse, translating into large turn-out of patients with mental problems in the state.
The issue of drug abuse has assumed the front-burner recently, and is as recalcitrant as Abiku, (the Ogbanje girl) in Wole Soyinka’s book, “Abiku”.
Experts have attributed reasons of drug abuse to such factors as influence of peer group pressure, in a bid to join the league of young men that make things happen in their neighbourhood. And it is made possible for the following reasons: to improve self-esteem, drug availability, accessibility, wrong prescription, and lack of drug education. The list is inexhaustible.
As stated in 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Be not deceived, evil communication corrupts good manners.” Parents have enormous responsibility in this direction, by influencing to a greater extent the companies their children and wards keep. This approach will go a long way in checking drug addiction among our youths.
Another disheartening factor is the poor manner in which the circulation of drugs is regulated in the country. This trend has facilitated the proliferation of “prescription drugs” in the open market. The trend has degenerated to the level that drugs that require doctor’s prescription before dispensing are freely sold in the open market.
In well-organised climes, certain drugs do not circulate widely, except “over the counter” (OTC) drugs. In Nigeria, the situation has degenerated to the extent that the circulation and proliferation of drugs, such as Tramadol, has assumed a geometric rate, while the consumption of the substance may have assumed arithmetical progression. In every street corner in urban centres and villages now, Tramadol is sold and consumed without recourse to its consequence.
Clinically, Tramadol serves as a pain relief. But today, it is abused and its use has been expanded to other areas, such as to enhance productivity in menial labour and sexual enhancement.
According to experts, an abuse or prolonged use of Tramadol exposes the user to psychotic consequences. That is to say that in the nearest future, Bagudu’s observation will be a child’s play, considering the large number of youths nationwide that will parade the streets insane.
The consequence for prolonged or abuse of Tramadol does not begin and end with psychotic effects. Indeed, its abuse is a disaster begging for urgent attention. In few years, an army of youths that are unproductive or less productive will be unleashed on the society. To stretch the argument further, the society will also be populated with youths who are sexually inactive, because most of the vital organs in their bodies might have been severely devastated.
Another crucial question begging for answer is: How did we degenerate to this abysmal level? Findings in some states have shown that the drug, which is now ravaging most of our rural communities, was imported and introduced by some migrant farmers hired by locals to help them in their cassava and yam farms. Although some believe the purposes for which the farmers were using the drug and that which the local youths have embraced the substance differs, every un-prescribed usage is tantamount to abuse.
To halt the wide circulation of Tramadol, especially in our rural communities, it has been strongly suggested that sources should be mopped up. That is to say that these illegal outlets through which the substance is circulated ought to be identified and closed.
It is suggested that the Abia State chapter of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), should reinforce an earlier measure whereby various drug outlets in the open market were to be shot down. At the extreme, a similar fate suffered by Codeine recently, due to its abuse, be slammed on Tramadol by banning it. Besides, it will not be out of place to suggest that the various agents of socialisation, the orientation agencies, and the anti- drug agencies have crucial roles to play in such exercise.
The cheering news is that Abia State Orientation Agency, God willing, next year is pioneering similar efforts in the North this side of the country. The agency has articulated efforts to disabuse the minds of Abia youths against drug abuse. Other things being equal, if those efforts are successfully implemented, the number of drug addicts in the state will be remarkably reduced.
Indeed, drug abuse is an ill wind that blows no one good. Therefore, every hand must be on deck to put the menace at bay
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