In recent years, Nigeria has grappled with a growing and alarming menace – the surge in drug abuse that has permeated communities across the nation. The pressing issues demand immediate attention as they not only jeopardize individual lives but also pose a significant threat to the social fabric of the country.

Statistics reveal a startling increase in drug abuse cases, with young adults being particularly vulnerable. The prevalence of substances such as marijuana, codeine, tramadol, and other kinds of narcotics has reached unprecedented levels with foreseeable severe health consequences and a surge in criminal activities.

According to research conducted by the National Library of Medicine (2022), it pointed out that a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Nigeria indicated that 14.4% (14.3 million) of people aged between 13 and 64 years abuse drugs.

A report made by Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in 2021, indicated that 40% of Nigerian youths are deeply involved in drug abuse between the ages of 18 and 35 years.

Statistics gathered from the NDLEA between January 2021 to July 2022 revealed that about 18,940 suspected drug traffickers were arrested with about 92 percent being men.

A consultant Psychiatrist at Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba in Lagos state, Dr Olajumoke Koyejo has put the prevalence rate of psycho substance use in Nigeria at 14% which was twice higher than the global rate of 5.6%.

This pointed out the level of hard drug intake that has become so rampant and popular in youths most especially those within the ages of 13 to 35 years.

The former provost and Medical Director of the Aro Hospital, Mrs. Taiwo Adamson, spoke during the third edition 2023 of Dr. Taiwo Adamson’s annual debate and mental wellness organized by the Association of Resident Doctors, Neuropsychiatric Hospital Ariel, Abeokuta, Ogun State, raised the alarm, saying, “I have a private hospital, and eight out of ten patients we admit are related to drug use. It’s not because of psychiatric illness; it’s because of addictive disorders in these individuals.”

However, youths around the world give many excuses for engaging in illicit drug abuse which could range from peer pressure, to enhance self-performance , self-medication and escape, experimentation and finally to feel grown up.

Engaging the views of some residents of the Benin metropolis on the high rise of substance abuse in the society, a legal practitioner, Miss Egbon Fummilayo Ifeloju mentioned her concerns towards the abuse and its impact on the mental and physical impact on youths indulging in drug abuse.

“My take on drug abuse and the usage of hard drugs amongst youths in the society is that it is going overboard. Firstly, codeine is a cough medicine and because of its stimulating effect, youths have begun to abuse it and take it to an excess amount so they can become high. And they do all manner of things in that high state.

Also, cocaine and codeine are drugs that can be used medically but they have been abused and become an addiction. These days, youths who abuse these drugs have been known never to do well, and if they do, most of their life earnings will be channeled towards it. Check out certain people who have abused drugs, most of them become useless and unfit in society,” Ifeloju stated.

“Despite NAFDAC’s effort to curb the use of these illicit drugs, they are still being trafficked and sold. It cuts across all classes, from the rich to the poor,” she added.

Mr. Momah Euriel. O, Deputy Director, Lagos state ministry of Education, founder/ team lead, Smiles for Orphans and Vulnerable children initiative, gives quality information concerning the schemes in which youths abuse drugs and how it can affect their academics and education.

“Substance abuse has become much, rising at an alarming rate and we have found the trend common among young people, teenagers and we have begun to find them even among preteens (primary pupils). There are different substances that are being abused on daily basis in form of cocaine, heroin, and other form of narcotics etc,” Mr. Momah stated.
“We discovered that codeine and substances used as cough medicines are regularly being abused. They have started placing them in soft drinks as a disguise as well. There’s one called Colorado, which makes them lose their senses and they begin to misbehave. Recently, I heard that they now begin to exhume corpse or dead bodies from their graves, crush the bones, and begin to inhale as another form of high drugs that teenagers abuse today,” he revealed

Mr. Momah further explained that these practices amongst teens & youths have been influenced by celebrities’ lifestyles and frequent displays of drugs.

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In another response, an undergraduate from the University of Benin, Okooboh Sonia Enoma, expressed her concerns about the hard use of drugs among youths who should be spending money wisely on something profitable. She also urged the government and society to put their hands together to curb the menace of the society

“Substance abuse is like one of the evils that have found its way into the society and many of our youths have indulged in it. I know quite a couple of my friends that the use of ‘loud’ has ended their lives. Of course, they spend so much money on this addiction of theirs,” Enoma stated.

“There was a friend of mine we all tried to bring out from it and successfully, he was taken in for rehabilitation. His life was never the same again. When we calculated how much he had spent on loud, it was alarming. It wrecked him,” she disclosed.

Another resident, Mr. Christopher Ohovwore, mentioned how the environment affects youths into taking hard Substances.

“Where you live influences you. If you stay in a rugged area, like slums, ghetto for example, you’ll be more exposed to drugs due to the lifestyle. But yes youths these days take drugs a lot. And we should sensitize our youths and teenagers that the dangers from taking drugs are enormous. If they want to know, they can go through a Tik-Tok account called “Tales from the street” and see how youths got their future ruined from the use of hard drugs”.

Several medical practitioners are calling the attention of the government and other agencies such as the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration Control(NAFDAC) National drug law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Economic for financial crime commission (EFCC), and other agencies should collaborate and ensure that they curb the Menace.

Dr Nelson Aliya, a United States-based Nigerian medical practitioner has urged the federal government to employ data in the fight against the menace of drug abuse, drug disorder, and mental health among youths.

He disclosed this in a virtual meeting organized by the Re-orientation Advocacy of Nigeria (RAN) in Abuja last year to mark 2023 world drug day in Nigeria.

Consequences of substance abuse by youths may include; environmental damage, ruins families, health problems, workplace issues, high ratio of crime, criminal records, stagnation, financial distress, depression and anxiety, provoking mental health conditions, and finally death.

Awareness should be created towards discontinuing the intake of drugs by youths as the government and the society frowns at it and defaulters would be punished for indulging in such acts if caught.

In a bid to curb the menace, the Federal Ministry of Youth Development on Wednesday, January 31, expressed its preparedness to partner with the NDLEA, on raising awareness and providing rehabilitation and skills acquisition for Nigerian youths afflicted by the scourge of substance abuse.

In a statement released by the Director, of Media & Advocacy, Mr. Femi Babafemi, the Minister of Youth Development, Dr. Jamila Bio Ibrahim gave the assurance during her visit to the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa in the Agency’s headquarters at Abuja.

According to the Minister, the visit is geared towards collaborating with NDLEA on advocacy, strengthening grassroots awareness, especially among youths on the dangers of substance abuse, and getting counseling and rehabilitation for young Nigerians struggling with drug abuse or addiction.

According to the statement released, Dr. Ibrahim also expressed optimism that the National Youth Development Bank which will soon be launched by the Federal Government to empower Nigerian Youths could also serve as a channel for rehabilitating young Nigerians to get funding for beneficial endeavors based on skill acquired.

As Nigeria stands at a crossroads, the collective resolve to confront this menace will determine the trajectory of the nation’s future given the strong nexus between drug abuse and security challenges facing the country.