In this piece, AFEEZ HANAFI examines the worrisome trend of drug abuse especially among the youth, its implications on life and health and ways to reverse the trend
It takes the wildest imagination for one to mistake a waterlogged drainage channel for a swimming pool, but a high on drugs could easily blur the apparent contrast.It did, in broad daylight, a few weeks ago.A young man dressed in three-quarter denims, a short-sleeved T-shirt and a wristwatch to match submerged his body in murky water in the full glare of public attention.
Overly unconscious, he swung back and forth inside the stinking gutter to the jeering remarks of distant onlookers.High on Colorado, according to a voice in the background of the short viral video, the unidentified lad flung himself uncontrollably, hitting his head on the ground and planks across the drain.
“Where is his family?” Someone in the crowd asked emphatically in Yoruba as the hysteria that greeted the horrific scenario went on.“I don’t know his house; we are all on the street together!” An onlooker replied belligerently.“Ise Colorado; the influence of Colorado,” another person remarked in a raucous voice tinged with demeaning nuances.
“Please take him away from here,” a worried woman appealed to the crowd.
A street lingo for synthetic cannabinoids, Colorado is a trending cocktail of psychotropic drugs commonly used by many Nigerians especially youths.While the narratives behind the moniker could not be clearly established, there are pointers that it might have been named after Colorado, one of the states in the United States of America which is the first in the US to pass the law legalising marijuana for 21 years old or older across the state.
Recently, another disturbing clip on drug abuse hit the Internet.
At the beginning of the two-minute-seventeen-second video, some youths were seen in a room preparing a drug cocktail.Energised by hip-hop music wafting through the background, two of them, one holding a wrap of smoke, emptied contents of different bottles into a bowl of juice while another stirred the liquid with a spoon.
The video then revealed different scenarios of teenagers and adults acting wildly after becoming inebriated.In one of the instances, two persons attended to a young man writhing on the floor as others immersed in drinking and smoking looked on.
In another instance, two buckets of water were poured on an obviously teenage-looking boy in a befuddled state after allegedly getting high.Partially paralysed and dazed, they smirked at him as he struggled to regain his balance.
The next scene in the clip showed two men repeatedly smacking up a drugged teenager identified simply as Omololu in a desperate attempt to beat him into consciousness.
Sitting on the floor half-naked, another teenager believed to be high was slapped by a young man, who hastened him “to return to life.” As if the smacks were meant to worsen his condition, the victim hurriedly embarked on involuntary acrobatics, somersaulting repeatedly to the amazement of some onlookers.
“Won’t he run mad like this?” A woman asked curiously.
“It’s normal; leave him,” someone retorted.
Growing trend of drug abuse
Drug abuse across Nigeria has become increasingly troubling with many young people, including teenage girls and young women, getting addicted to drugs on a daily basis.Confirming this, a 2018 survey on drug use in Nigeria sponsored by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime stated that ‘‘one of four drug users is a woman.’’
At local joints, rave parties, event centres, clubhouses and even motor parks, the sight of exuberant youths wedded to narcotics and alcohol is a commonplace.
Lately, methamphetamine or meth for short has assumed a disgusting trend, largely in the eastern part of the country.With weird photos and videos of youths hooked on mkpuru mmiri or gusoro, as the crystal narcotic hallucinogen is locally called, there have been concerns among community leaders, politicians and groups over the ravaging effects of the hard drug.According to WebMD, crystal meth can cause a spike in a person’s body temperature and the user could pass out or even die.
A recent video showed a young man being tied to a pillar and spanked mercilessly for acting strangely after overdosing on mkpuru mmiri in the Ekwe Isu Local Government Area of Imo State.
Also, a young man, reportedly under the influence of meth, was videoed in a park in the South-East enmeshed in a risible show of martial arts.
“Yes.It is happening here live.Everybody should watch and see if you can recognise this person.
This is what is happening at Machine Park.You can see he has been affected by mkpuru mmiri.
“Look at what he is doing.
This is how an adult is learning karate (a Japanese martial art) in the open.It is what mkpuru mmiri tells him to do that he is doing.Those people dealing in mkpuru mmiri should come and see how this man is engaging in karate.This is another one.
We are tired of all this,” a man, who seemed to have shot the video that went viral in October 2021, said in the background.
The victim rolled on the floor for a while before he was seated on a pavement; hands tied, and offered a sachet of water to drink.
“I am tired,” he mumbled, smiling sheepishly.
Another clip released in November 2020 revealed five teenagers in a well furnished apartment entangled in wild behaviour.Allegedly under the grip of meth, they jerked, laughed and screamed awkwardly while the 23-second video lasted.
Apart from Colorado and m nkpuru mmiri, other commonly abused drug mixtures with far-reaching, debilitating effects on the users include omi gutter (gutter juice), a blend of cocaine, codeine, tramadol, Indian hemp and black currant juice; skushi, a locally-fermented alcoholic herbal concoction; codeine containing cough syrup and lacatomtom, a mixture of tramadol and tomtom in a bottle of a popular soft drink.
In August 2018, a 21-year-old man, known as Kenneth, died after overdosing on gutter juice at a hotel in Ikorodu, Lagos.He had seizures and was rushed to the Ikorodu General Hospital where he gave up the ghost.
There are also several heartrending reports on many people in the northern parts of the country plagued with mental disorder as a result of the effect of codeine.
Worried by the menace, the House of Representatives at a plenary on November 25, 2021 called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on drug abuse in Nigeria.
A lawmaker from Imo State, representing Ikeduru/Mbaitoli Federal Constituency, Henry Nwauba, raised a motion of urgent public importance, calling for urgent action to be taken to arrest the ugly development among youths and adults who are into drugs.
He said, “These addictive drugs come in different names as tramadol, codeine syrup, lacatomtom and so on and so forth, and the endpoint according to many is that drug abuse is fast destroying the future of the country.”
While adopting the motion, the House unanimously urged the Federal Government to be proactive in checking the menace through aggressive sensitisation by the National Orientation Agency, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and other security agencies.
Even the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is manifestly overwhelmed.At the inauguration of the War Against Drug Abuse in Abuja, in commemoration of the 2021 United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the President raised the alarm that fighting drug abuse was more dangerous than wars against insurgency and banditry.
Buhari had said, “I’ve seen clips of where grandparents are on drugs, parents are on drugs, and by extension, their wards, their children are on drugs.So, this is a war that is targeting three generations in a stretch.
I believe strongly that every effort must be put in place to ensure that we deal with the issues of substance abuse and trafficking and manufacture so that we can get to the root cause….
“I believe strongly, with every bit of conviction that if we are able to deal with the issue of drug abuse, our security challenges will drastically reduce as we walk toward a drug-free Nigeria.”
Troubling statistics on drug abuse
The UNODC sponsored survey indicated that in 2017, there was a high use of psychoactive substances such as cannabis, opioids (tramadol codeine, or morphine) and cough syrups, with 14.3 million people aged between 15 and 64 years said to be using drugs.The figure is high compared with the 2016 global annual prevalence of any drug use of 5.6 per cent among the adult population.
The report also confirmed that injection of drugs was rapidly gaining ground in Nigeria with one out of five high risk drug users injecting drugs.
Globally, drug use has assumed a proportionally sickening dimension.The 2019 World Drug Report of UNODC estimated that 271 million (5.5 per cent) of the global population aged between 15 and 64 years, used drugs in 2018 and it was estimated that 35.6 million people suffered drug use disorders in 2018.
In the 2020 World Drug Report, the international body disclosed that about 192 million people used cannabis in 2018, making it the most used drug globally while 58 million people used opioids.Also, some 11.3 million people were estimated to have injected drugs in 2018.
More worryingly, 585,000 deaths were traced to drug use in 2017 alone while organised crime, illicit financial flows, corruption, and terrorism were attributed to drugs.
The report added, “More than one million people who inject drugs are living with HIV and 5.5 million are living with hepatitis C.Of the roughly 585,000 deaths attributed to drug use in 2017, half were due to liver diseases caused by hepatitis C, which continues to mostly go untreated among people who inject drugs.”
Speaking on the illicit drug market at the 2021 United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the NDLEA Chairman, Buba Marwa, said N90bn worth of drugs were seized by the agency in five months.
The sum echoed a 2017 Global Financial Integrity report that pegged the annual global market of drug trafficking between $426bn and $652bn, making it the second most lucrative illicit market after counterfeit and pirated goods.
By November 2021, Marwa said the agency had intercepted 2.3 million kilograms of illicit drugs worth N120bn in the last 10 months and secured conviction of more than 500 drug dealers and consumers during the period.
About 10,355, comprising 8,635 males and 1,720 females were also arrested by the agency.
“The prevalence of drug abuse in Nigeria is alarming and we need drastic measures to stem the tide,” Marwa added.
Aside from deteriorating mental disorders and deaths in several cases, many youths have dropped out of school, lost their jobs and relationships due to drug use and addiction.
In a recent interview with our correspondent, a 29-year-old resident of Mushin in Lagos identified only as Olalekan narrated how drugs shattered his golden chance to become a graduate in Urban and Regional Planning.
Though now rehabilitated and works as a cobbler, he had yet to fully reconcile with the reality of dropping out of school in the final year.
He stated, “I got on the wrong side of things and started smoking cannabis.I felt it was something I needed at a point in time.I was in my early 20s then.It really affected me drastically.It affected my cognitive level.
“I didn’t have total focus on my studies and my anger management was poor.
It was part of the reason I dropped out at 500-level.I underwent rehabilitation five years ago and since then I have never returned to drugs.It was a relative who knew I was doing drugs that advised me to go for a rehab.”
As a university graduate and a cloth designer, Nneka’s business had started growing in leaps and bounds at the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, only for her to slip into a deep crisis as a result of addiction to crack.
Now rehabilitated, she recalled the perilous journey through the drug during a conversation with our correspondent.
She recounted, “I looked unkempt and was losing weight.Sometimes, I had to smoke marijuana so I could have some appetite.Someone once asked me if I was 70 years old because my body had shrunk.I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.
“I once smoked crack for four days at a stretch.I spent a huge amount within four days on crack.One gram was about N20,000 to N25,000 depending on the dealer and I could finish it within eight hours.
“Drug also affected my business.
Once I smoked and I had not slept, I liked to be in a quiet environment.
If I go to the shop, customers would want to discuss with me and I could shout at them.I didn’t go to work and it killed my business.”
Tackling the menace
Among others, joblessness, poor parenting and peer group pressure have been linked to substance abuse.To address this worsening societal problem, experts canvassed a holistic approach, from social to economic standpoint.
A psychologist, Prof Toba Elegbeleye, said the prevalence of drug use among youths was unsettling amid its deleterious effects on (mental) health.
He said, “Use of drugs is not in any way a welcome development.
It is an evidence of frustration, delusion and many other things combined.The moment you take to the use of drugs, you temporarily take leave of your brain and the outcome is always injurious and negative.
“Youths will normally be drawn to drugs because of the extra lift they give them in terms of surge in power but the end to which such energy is directed is always a cause for concern.Some people ascribe its use to the supply of happiness but there has never been any correlation.It actually leaves you worse off.
“Use of drugs is by no means something that should be encouraged but again youths of all ages have always been drawn to drugs.
The prevalence is always a cause for concern.”
The scholar maintained that adequate sensitisation to drug abuse was crucial to stemming the dangerous trend, urging law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders to focus on sources of drugs.
He noted, “Social information disbursement will be the best way out.Give the youth enough information about the side effects of drug use.It can lead to loss of memory, permanent brain damage and can actually rob one of the functioning of certain parts of the body physiological makeup.
“It can lead to psychological imbalance too.This information should be disseminated as far and wide as possible and be constant so that the youth that such information is targeted at would have access to it and probably make use of it.”
Also, a professor of sociology at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Veronica Okeke, urged parents to always keep track of their children, know the company they keep and ensure they don’t stay away from home for too long.
“Parents should find out why they are coming back home late.
From time to time, find out what the children are doing; meet their teachers to find out whether they are actually in school and how they are performing,” she advised.
A professor of physiotherapy at the Department of Medical Rehabilitation, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Adesoji Adedoyin, described drug abuse as a destructive agent that required the joint effort of families and the government to address.
He said, “Substance abuse is condemnable and has health challenges.It is a destructive agent that can harm the body system; organs of the body can be compromised.It can damage the brain and cause mental derangement.
When they take it, it stimulates them and some of them will be unconscious.
They don’t know what they are doing.
It can also cause impotence, destroy the kidney and the liver.And if a person continues to take it, their life is in danger.
“To address this problem, first, it has to come from the family.Parents have to train their children properly.They should not allow them to mingle with strange people because it is bad company that breeds this.
“We are not embarking on education properly.We have to educate the youth about the dangers of substance abuse.
We should also empower the youth.If they don’t have anything to do, they are likely to think of evil.
The government has a lot to do in terms of empowerment through sports participation and provision of jobs.”
Adedoyin noted that these measures would go a long way in reducing drug abuse and rescuing the youth from a ruinous path.
He added, “Seminars should be organised, jingles should be run to sensitise the youth.The use of social media is also important in educating the youth about the dangers of drugs.”
An Assistant Director of Nursing at the Federal Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Ezeh Ogochukwu, advised youths to avoid drugs, warning that drug addiction was a tough battle to win.
She said self-motivation was central to drug rehabilitation, noting that there was tendency to relapse and return to drugs during or after being rehabilitated.
She said, “The first step involved in rehabilitation is motivation but most often you find out that many people are not motivated.They are coerced into rehabilitation.After arriving at a rehabilitation centre, there is a phase of withdrawal.It comes with different signs, ranging from restlessness, diarrhoea, stooling, runny nose to sweating, shivering, tremor and craving, depending on the drugs individuals abuse.
“My pain in rehabilitation has been that most of the patients when they go for rehab, before they recover, they relapse again.We need the community and society to join hands to help us fight this menace.”