Job Osazuwa 

More young men and women are taking to drugs, and the prevalence has become an epidemic that is destroying Nigerian youths. 

Day and night, young Nigerians, including secondary school students, are seen at every nook and cranny, taking all manner of substances to get intoxicated. And the menace is giving birth to a generation of drug addicts.

The damage that drug addiction is inflicting on the youth and its implication are enormous and multifaceted. The economy and social life of the country is unarguably at the receiving end of a society that is infested with drug addicts.

The dangers of drug abuse of all sorts confront Nigerians every day on the roads, workplace, schools, and at the home, among others.

There is no doubt that some of these drugs are highly addictive, and when taken in excess, could have devastating impact on the mind and body. The health implications, according to experts, include abnormal or decreased touch sensation, blisters under the skin, bloating, blood pressure increase, blurred vision and change in walking and balance.

Other health dangers depending on the particular drugs taken are chest pain or discomfort, convulsions (seizures), dizziness or light-headedness when getting up from a lying or sitting position, fast heartbeat, and irregular heartbeat. There could also be loss of memory, numbness and tingling of the face, fingers, or toes, seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not there, severe nausea and trouble in performing routine tasks.

Further complications such as the risk of kidney damage and seizures, mental psychosis-delusion, hallucination, and even schizophrenia could set in. Many of the victims are bound with chains at homes and different rehabilitation centres.

It is common to see commercial drivers drinking and taking all manners of self-enhancing substances, including Indian hemp to get “high” before they embark on their journeys. Motor parks across the nation have become points of drug and alcohol sales, even though there is a prohibition to that effect. Such drivers, while behind the steering, often end up driving recklessly, and consequently putting the lives of commuters and other road users in grave danger.

These drugs are packaged and sold in liquid, solid and blended for the targeted consumers. More people are lured into the tribe on daily basis. Students, artisans, artists and other classes of people have embraced this new craze for mind-bending drugs.

It is stating the obvious that most of the crimes that are perpetrated across the country could be traced to the influence of drugs on the perpetrators.

Stakeholders have also blamed the influence of foreign media and parental structures, which have become weak, leaving the children very little to look up to. Most children’s lives are said to be hopeless and full of voids, which push them to look up to drugs to fill the voids.

Resolved to reduce the unhealthy trend, Adorable Foundation International (AFI) has been in the forefront of creating awareness in every part of Lagos and beyond on the dangers of drug abuse and misuse.

The founder of the foundation, Princes Ada Okeke Amam said that the NGO came into existence five years ago through the Adorable Social Club, which was focused on charitable works. She said that the focus of the body was to ensure that drug abuse was prevented. She believed that success was easier to achieve with prevention than managing and rehabilitating a drug addict.

She regretted that so many factors were responsible for the Nigerian youth taking to drugs. She lamented that the increase in drug abuse was alarming, calling for collective efforts to stem the tide. In her words, the spate of domestic violence ravaging the land could be linked to the heavy use of intoxicating substances.

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“We have been going to different parts of Lagos to warn young ones and adults against the consequences of drug abuse. This is a battle we have chosen to fight and see that the impact is felt in different parts of Nigeria. With our partnership with the Nigeria Police and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), a lot has been achieved.

“The United Nations has chosen June 26 to campaign against drug abuse across the globe. We as an NGO have been actively participating to ensure that our society becomes a better place for this generation and the ones coming behind us.

“Over the years, we have discovered that drug abuse was responsible for most of the crimes in the society. This is why we want to embark on a one million march this year to increase awareness campaign. Drug abuse is capable of eroding the value of any country.

“This year, we are shifting attention more to students in secondary schools. We are doing this because from our past campaigns, we noticed that the grassroots is where we need to channel more of our energy into. Through more awareness, we can have a saner society and resources and time will be saved,” she said.

Amam called on governments at all levels to improve on the economy so that able men and women who are willing to work but are enmeshed in idleness could be gainfully engaged. She said that many people go into drugs as a result of frustration in the country.

“Our focus is on prevention because at this level, we can achieve a lot with little resources. The government has a big role to play. If a young man or woman goes to school and comes out in flying colours but at the end, he or she is left with no job for years, negative thoughts might begin to set in.

“We normally go out with a team of counsellors, medical personnel and social workers, who give succour to any indentified victim. Triumph Medical Centre has been partnering with us to provide health care to those who need it. We also give them foods because they are always hungry.

“We want to have a healthy nation because it will give birth to a healthy economy. All we are doing is all about nation building. I deny myself a lot of comfort in order to save a life and save our country. At the moment, we have nobody financing us. All we do is from our individual purses,” she stated.

A consultant to AFI, Chief Tochi Praise Benjamin, said that the wrong use of drugs has both immediate and long-term effects on those taking such substances.

He said that most youths that are taking drugs don’t have any means of livelihood; and when they run out of cash, they begin to think of engaging in crime to raise money to buy more.

He said: “Drugs are addictive. Most of the victims want to quit but they can’t just leave the habit. Such people need aid which is scarcely available. We know the story of Mexico and Colombia and how drug abuse dealt with them.

“Drug abuse tells on the morality of the country. Africa cherishes morality, but this is already being eroded. We now see children having no regards for the elderly.

“Whatever a parent labours for to acquire in decades could be sold for peanuts by his child who is a drug addict. This is why we need to get rid of this unhealthy trend. Stopping it at the grassroots is the best way to deal with it.

“We have a particular musician at the moment who has become a bad influence to many Nigerians, particularly students. The young man promotes drug abuse and releases different songs that encourage other crimes and immorality. If this young man was stopped when he was a child, we wouldn’t have been battling with the crisis at hand. This is why we keep drumming the need for prevention. This is a country where the authorities appear to just fold their arms and do nothing.”

Benjamin said that all Nigerians could not be sleeping at the same time. He warned that if the people choose not to contribute their own quota in speaking against the menace, Nigerians might wake up someday to discover that the society has become the opposite of everything that is tolerable.