RIFENESS OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE: NIGERIAN YOUTHS AS A CASE STUDY
When I was in primary school, my social studies teacher taught me drug abuse and as at then, I thought it was one of the frivolous topics in the Nigerian basic school curriculum. It is however appalling that this dreadful act is now in the mainstream. The set of people in whose shoulders, the future of this nation rests on have been preoccupied with abuse of drugs, and are clueless about the clarion call of their fatherland.
The asylum of these heedless individuals is likened to a chemistry laboratory where the so-called “science students” mix several intoxicants using soft or even alcoholic drinks as solvents. Tramadol, opioids, cough syrups containing codeine together with cannabis or tobacco are the common chemicals (drugs) taken by youths nowadays.
Due to addiction, they crave it anytime their brains secrete dopamine in order to have pleasurable experience just as a neonate wails for breast milk. And after taking a few shots, vision blurs and they stagger like an old man suffering from Huntington’s disease.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “drug abuse or substance abuse is the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances including alcohol and illicit drugs”. It is now prevalent among Nigerian youths. About 14.3million people aged 15-64 years in Nigeria had used drugs, excluding tobacco and alcohol, in 2017 with the highest levels among youths aged 25-39 (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, 2018). Drugs that are abused may be psycho-active drugs e.g codeine and tramadol used to stimulate a false sense of well-being and increase ability, or performance-enhancing drugs like cocaine and heroin which give extra energy and stamina to the user or dependency drugs such as opioids that are used to overcome health issues or challenges to maintain a better lifestyle.
Why do most people start taking drugs at this crucial stage of their sojourn in life when they are expected to start actualizing their dreams in life?
Firstly, peer influence lured many to “try it” which often graduated into addiction. In a bid to joining the clique of “baddest-guys” on campus or street, many young Nigerians get high on drugs to exhibit some false sense of lifestyle. Besides, youth is a period when everyone begins to face challenges independently without seeking the support of parents. Some get it wrong by thinking about the use of alcohol and other drugs as the best way to overcome their worries and get on with the journey of life.
Also, the poor economic state of the nation has left many youths jobless and hopeless. In addition, inadequate parental care may be due to a broken home which causes children to derail.
Although many started drug abuse due to external influences and ignorance, the consequences are grievous, especially on the user and the society at large. It could lead to mental, emotional, physical, social and economic instability especially when the user gets addicted.
A drug addict sets out early in the morning when the cock crows, putting on dirty and tattered clothes with hair left uncombed, wandering around in search for someplace where he can quench his thirst, with whatever he is addicted to until he spends his last penny. Besides, cannabis and alcohol are risk factors for several fatal illnesses resulting in short life expectancy. According to a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 3 million people died as a result of the harmful use of alcohol in 2016.
The future of a country whose youths live miserable lives and die untimely is like a burning fire with exhausted fuel, in a short while, the bright fire goes off and darkness prevails. Therefore, quick intervention from government, parents, and individuals is required to curb this menace.
Drug addiction is a disease and should be addressed as such without societal stigmatization. The society should refer drug users to the hospital for rehabilitation. Although, recovery may be tough and slow – with several relapses – for many addicts it is the only way to be redeemed.
In addition, government agencies should formulate strategies and policies that will control the flow of drugs into the market. Also, there should be the creation of employment opportunities for millions of unemployed graduates in the country. Being idle usually, brings about negative thoughts like drug abuse and other vices in the society. Besides, charity begins at home, parents should take up the responsibility to instill good morals in their children and monitor the kind of companies they keep. Moreover, Nigeria youths need to be re-oriented and counseled by successful men and women in society about life. Youths should also be optimistic about the uncertain future and strive hard to attain greatness.
In summary, substance abuse is the beginning of all evils. The best way to avoid falling into this pit is by abstinence – do not consider trying it! It shatters the dreams of youth and leaves him in remorse and regret all through his lifetime. Let’s not forget that youth is a period to sow seeds, watch them grow, fruit and reap in the future. It is time to explore and discover opportunities. As for smoking and drinking, “don’t try them!”.