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Drug Abuse in Nigeria – Causes, Effects, and Possible Solutions

In this post, we will look at the curious case of drug abuse in Nigeria. Here we discuss, the possible causes of drug abuse, effects, and solutions to this societal menace.

It is always safest to start with the beginning.

You know the fact that Nigeria remains the most populous black nation makes it one of the most profitable markets for any product whatsoever.

And since what we’re discussing has to do with drug abuse in Nigeria, you can only imagine how susceptible millions of Nigerians have become too addictive substances.

If you think any of this has to do with age or geographical settings, I urge you to think again.

Once considered a taboo in Nigeria, Drug abuse is now as appealing to a starving 10-year old kid in Ajegunle, as it is to a 65-year-old millionaire in Lekki who doesn’t have a clue what he wants to do with his time and money.

We have reached that point as a nation.

Drug Abuse in Nigeria – Causes, Effects, and Possible Solutions
Drug abuse connotation – Image Source: https://guardian.ng/features/weekend/tackling-menace-of-drug-abuse-in-nigeria/

Onward.

For someone who has never been down this road before, it is very hard to understand what drug abuse is all about, especially in a country where the level of unemployment is almost as high as the abuse of addictive drugs.

Drug abuse is a serious problem anywhere in the world. But in Nigeria, it has become a more serious problem than anyone could have ever imagined.

And here’s why:

Only a few years ago, specifically in 2012, Nigeria was considered just a transition country for drug peddlers –That is, a passage point for the smooth smuggling of these addictive substances through South America and Europe.

But today?

Drug abuse in Nigeria has become so prevalent, so uncontrolled, so menacing, our country is now a globally recognized den for ardent drug abusers.

Based on a 2018 survey backed by the European Union and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 14.3 million Nigerians between the ages of 15 and 64 were said to have abused drugs in the last 12 months.

Like prostitution and cultism, drug abuse looks like another social menace that will bewitch Nigerians for a very long time. As we speak: Adults, teenagers, pre-teenagers, and even primary school pupils are all caught in the web of drug addiction.

But of course, behind every social menace lies a cause. And while concerned citizens of this country find the surge of drug abuse very disturbing, logic suggests that to find effective long-lasting solutions to drug abuse in Nigeria, we must first look at the root causes of this problem.

Which brings us to the very crucial question of……

What’s The Cause of Drug Abuse in Nigeria?

Make no mistake about it, the causes of drug abuse are not always the same for every victim or addict.

While the varying causes of drug abuse may have the same resulting effect, the reason a 16-year old girl in Taraba state becomes a drug addict may differ from the reasons for an unemployed man of 35 who lives in the slums of Lagos state.

Admittedly, it is possible to use recreational drugs without falling into addiction, but the truth is; most Nigerian youths who start using these drugs eventually become emotionally dependent on them.

Here are a few common causes of drug abuse in Nigeria

  • Social influence
  • Peer pressure and the desire to fit in (Social acceptance)
  • Depression and mental health
  • Abuse of prescription drugs.
  • Curiosity and experimentation.
  • Availability and accessibility
  • Unemployment and economic uncertainty

We all want to fit in, to mix, to be liked and accepted.

Human beings are like that, and Nigerians are not any different.

For the lack of a better expression, Nigerians are easily the easiest -going people on earth. Our ability to socialize is only surpassed by our desire to be socially validated by the very individuals or social groups whose company we crave.

Take a 19-year-old first-year student at the University of Port-Harcourt for example:

He is young, naïve, full of energy and wants to enjoy his first taste of a free social life. But first, he must find and associate with other young Nigerians who share the same feeling.

So naturally, he wants to fit into the perfect social group. And to earn his place amongst his new friends and acquaintances, he will have to walk with them, laugh with them, play with them, party with them, cry with them and most importantly…..

Indulge in the same vices as them.

Unfortunately, the illicit use of drugs is a very common vice among Nigerian youths, and you can see how irresistible it is for our 19-year-old first-year student who has no clue about the addiction that lies ahead.

Let’s not even mention the curious case of the average 9-year-old primary school pupil whose perception of street-savvy toughness includes theories of cultism, liberal sex and the illicit use of drugs.

Many Nigeria youths involved in drug abuse usually start out on an experimental basis. That is, a natural urge to know what it feels like, to have a direct experience of the physical sensation that comes with using addictive substances.

Like sex, alcohol, marijuana and cultism, drug abuse in Nigeria is seriously leaving a dent in our societal framework, that is if we still have a framework.

As is common in every other country in the world, most drug addicts in Nigeria didn’t have the slightest clue that they’d eventually become addicted. But here’s the little known truth about the prevalence of drug abuse in Nigeria:

Most of these drugs (like codeine, tramadol, LSD, cocaine, barbiturates, marijuana etc) contain addictive substances. And it is almost impossible to measure the exact dosage that is required to turn an ordinary user into an irredeemable addict.

While one Nigerian may have a mixture of codeine, coffee and a bottle of coke, and still maintain a reasonable level of control over the frequency of her indulgence, another Nigerian could use the same mixture and immediately go mad! Or develop an uncontrollable craving for it.

Of course, this has to do with how the drug makes them feel.

Let’s say you take tramadol because you want to be able to function more effectively as a hired labourer, and it turns out that your goal is accomplished beyond your expectations, the natural result is to….

Crave that feeling again and again and again.

And you know, like prescription pills and alcohol, the lack of serious law enforcement measures from the NDLEA and NAFDAC plays a significant role in the prevalence of drug abuse in Nigeria.

Do you know how extremely easy it is for a Primary-4 pupil to gain access to these drugs on the streets, at home, at the neighbourhood chemist, from friends, relatives and even adults who are usually addicts themselves?

You don’t wanna know.

There’s also the issue of parental negligence or some form of traumatic childhood experience that sets an innocent Nigerian child on the part to drug abuse.

And then, for the unfortunate ones who are born to drug-addicted mothers, you simply can’t deny the fact that they are very likely to end up….

Like the Woman who brought them into this World.

Also, if there’s already a history of drug abuse in a Nigerian household, and a child from that family ever experiments with an addictive drug, the natural result is an experiment that eventually becomes drug addiction.

Indeed, curiosity kills the cat.

Very importantly, and this is by no means peculiar to Nigerians alone:

When you take excessive amounts of an addictive substance, your brain triggers intense feelings of euphoria and pleasure. But here’s how the addiction becomes a long-term, almost-impossible-to-solve problem….

The more often you consume a drug like cocaine, the shorter the pleasure and physical sensation last. Thus, the need to consume more and more doses of the addictive substance to maintain a continuous flow of euphoria, pleasure and excitement that only makes sense to the individual abusing the drug.

The addiction itself increases the addiction and as such, can be referred to as a secondary cause.

That’s why a drug addict can cut off your head and ransack your dead skull if he believes that’s where you kept his missing dose of LSD.

Don’t laugh, I’m not making this up.

Finally, we have to consider the fact that Nigeria has one of the most porous borders on earth and you know what that means right?

Do you say you don’t?

Ok here’s what a porous border implies:

Virtually anything can be smuggled in and out of your country!

Onward.

Common Effects (and Consequences) of Drug Abuse in Nigeria.

It is not unnatural for people to take matters into their own hands, or for anyone to decide that he knows what is best for him.

But what we forget most times, usually before indulging in something as destructive as drug abuse, is the fact that actions and consequences are inseparable.

And you know, it will be very naïve for anyone to think that it is only the victim that suffers the consequences of drug abuse in Nigeria. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

When a man commits murder, for example, he may go to prison and get an eventual death sentence. But his family suffers too. The widow and the children he leaves behind have to deal with the painful reality of surviving without a central figure in their lives, and as such, may have to indulge in illegalities to scratch a living.

The natural result?

An ungodly multiplication of crime.

The same is true with the problem of drug abuse in Nigeria.

Even though the drug addict suffers a lot of health problems, is very likely to die prematurely, and will break the law in as many ways as his little heart desires, the inevitable socio-economic effects cannot be ignored.

The illicit use of addictive substances is no doubt a major global health problem. But the sudden prevalence in Nigeria is easily the most disturbing phenomenon the government has to deal with, bar terrorism and deep-rooted corruption.

Oh, so you thought the fantastically corrupt Nigerian government doesn’t know that Nigerians expect it to fight corruption to a standstill?

Anyway, here’s a summarized list of the effects of drug abuse in Nigeria:

  • Erratic behaviour at home, at school, at work and in public.
  • More health problems for the larger Nigerian society to deal with.
  • Mental retardation and psychological challenges
  • Death: Usually premature death which increases the mortality rate.
  • Dropping out of school, giving rise to the level of illiteracy in the country
  • Losing your job as a result of a change in behaviour, and difficulty in concentration
  • Physical deterioration
  • Brain damage!
  • Domestic violence in once peaceful Nigerian homes
  • Abusing strangers and loved ones.
  • Traffic offences and avoidable motor accidents
  • Premature birth
  • And lots more.

We could go on.

But by now, you get the point: The illicit use of addictive drugs is a serious problem in a country like Nigeria where the crime rate, unemployment, illiteracy and lawlessness are …..

Disturbingly high!

The Nigerian government already has enough on its plate. And while many Nigerians continue to demand a thoroughly-effective approach to tackle the problems bedevilling this nation, the issue of drug abuse in Nigeria, like cultism and prostitution, demands that all hands be on deck.

Which brings us the very crucial phase of…..

Read More: Causes and Effects of Drug Abuse in Nigeria

How to Solve the Problem of Drug Abuse in Nigeria.

Why talk about the problem if we’re not interested in tackling it?

Of what use is a conversation about the prevalence of drug abuse in Nigeria if we do not end on the note of what can be done to reduce this social menace to the barest minimum?

For the addict, drug abuse is usually a lifelong battle, and it is often considered a miracle when a former drug addict eventually becomes sober. That’s how difficult it is to turn an addict away from the illicit use of addictive substances.

But did you know?

That after seven to ten days of detoxification and abstinence, the emotional urge for these drugs naturally fades away?

Let’s be honest:

It is almost impossible to keep every Nigerian away from the use of addictive drugs. But there are simple steps that can be taken towards this menace.

Since drug abuse has become a very serious problem among Nigerian teenagers as well as the average university undergraduate, maybe it won’t be a bad idea to start with result-oriented counselling strategies for schools at all levels?

You know, at the elementary, secondary and tertiary phases on education in Nigeria.

And if I could, I’d also suggest that parents be encouraged by health authorities to give their children proper education on the causes and consequences of drug abuse in Nigeria.

You know, for one thing, it never ceases to amaze me how parents are very quick to conclude that it is enough to teach their children what the Bible or the Koran says, then they sit back …..

And Leave the rest to the Almighty!

There are things that no one else can teach a Nigerian child until they learn about it themselves. And the curious case of drug abuse is one of those.

Can you imagine how much saner the Nigerian society would be if parents were as thorough with their kids on the issues of sex, crime, cultism, fraud, drug abuse and the other vagaries of the Nigerian life as they very often are with religion?

I mean, from an affectionate point of view, burn it into every fibre of their being, and help them understand the evils of drug abuse.

Of course, parental guidance alone can’t solve a deep-rooted social menace like drug abuse in Nigeria, but at least parents can be safe in the knowledge that a solid foundation  (and defence) has been laid against a possible future problem.

Back to our educational system, which is a very crucial phase for the average Nigerian.

You know, we take education very seriously in Nigeria. Virtually every Nigerian parent wants their child to go to school and come out in flying colours (whatever that means).

So what if, as a matter of urgency, the ministry of education adds the curricula of drug education to all levels of the Nigerian education system?

And what if drug awareness units and functional rehabilitation centres are set up in all state, federal and private educational institutions?

Let’s take it a step further by suggesting that the existing drug law enforcement agencies like NDLEA extend their arms to schools and inspire young minds to help intensify the campaign against drug abuse in Nigeria.

How’s that for a start?

Do you say you agree?

Good, in that case, I’ll just press on.

You know, if these greedy Nigerian politicians had the slightest clue what impactful leadership is all about, they’d take advantage of election periods to talk about serious social menaces like drug abuse.

Will they?

Maybe, maybe not.  As far as 99.9997% of Nigerians are concerned, the chances are almost zero.

But then, politicians who are popular at the local, state and federal level could leverage their influence to inform their teeming supporters and kept them consciously informed on the dangers of drug abuse.

Onward. Onward. Onward.

Do you remember how I said earlier that the problem of drug abuse in Nigeria is both serious and disturbingly high?

Well here’s why I said that:

Currently, the prevalence rate of drug abuse in Nigeria is 14.4 per cent, disturbing, very disturbing. Especially when you consider the fact that in 2016, barely three years ago, the prevalence rate in the country was ……

A global average of 5.5 per cent!

During that same period, it was reported by the NDLEA that 40% of Nigerian youths engage in drug abuse.

Make of that what you will, but for any Nigerian who is at all serious about curbing the prevalence of drug abuse in this country, the need to take drastic measures couldn’t be more urgent.

What else can we do as a nation?

How about the Nigerian government keeping a tight lid on the drug distribution system? And ensuring access to these addictive drugs is reduced to the barest minimum?

Let’s not kid ourselves, it can be done.

This is the same country where the dreaded Ebola virus was successfully contained. It’s really only matter of collective collaboration on everyone’s part.

You know, countries like Saudi Arabia and Singapore are very ruthless when it comes to imposing strict measures against drugs. No doubt you’ve probably read those stories of smugglers and defaulters being sentenced to death.

Can the same be done in Nigeria? And will it work?

Well, I don’t know. But it sounds like a very good idea.

Back in 1985, three young Nigerians were tied to a Stake and….

Shot For Illegal Possession of Hard Drugs!

If my memory serves me right, their names were Bartholomew Owoh, Lawal Ojulupe, and Bernard Ogedegbe. You can verify this with a simple Google search.

But the truth of the matter is, this put the fear of God in anyone who considered the illicit consumption or trade of addictive substances.

I’ve read it somewhere that mere arrest and incarceration of drug offenders isn’t the best way to tackle drug abuse in Nigeria.

Maybe it’s not the best, but it sure would be a good way to go, if and only if the law enforcement agencies and every Nigerian (who isn’t brain dead) joins hands to tackle the social menace that is drug abuse.

Perhaps, rather than issue a death sentence to drug offenders, we could offer incentives for those who successfully complete drug rehabilitation programs?

Sounds like a good idea.

Read More: Punishment For Drug Abuse Offenders In Nigeria

At the end of the day, you can’t make drug abuse disappear overnight. It has to be tackled at the root.

Who knows, with a strong will, determination and sincere effective measures, we just might be able to reduce the prevalence of drug abuse in Nigeria to the barest minimum.

Five years from now, we can look back as a country and be patting ourselves on the back for a successful assault on drug abuse, or we could be dealing with multiplied crime, increased lawlessness and premature death, all of which will be a consequence of our refusal to do something about the prevalent rate of drug abuse in Nigeria.

The choice is ours.

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Andy Mukolo

Andy Mukolo is one of the best direct-response copywriters in Nigeria. He's also a very passionate content developer who works with InfoGuideNigeria.com. InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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