The Third Wave: Another Pandemic


Tobi-Makinde Melody & Oladipo Waliyah | November 21st 2022 | Like | Subscribe | Comment |

A few days ago, I came across an article about “how to protect yourself from zombies,” released by the US regarding the rabies virus. You can get this virus from dogs, bats, foxes, or humans. Yesterday, I came across another article about the flu raging in Japan. Of course, this kind of news is no longer shocking– no thanks to Covid 19. However, we’ve not had any of these cases in Nigeria for now. 

While I am thankful, there’s a problem just as concerning. I like to think that we are dealing with a third-wave pandemic. This pandemic is purely man-made, and perhaps, I may be exaggerating by using a term that holds trauma for many, but I’ve been unable to find any other word that captures the urgency of this topic.

A few days ago, I texted a friend randomly about some celebrity couples I admire, and the conversation switched. We started to talk about drugs and drug usage. We spoke at length about how drug usage used to seem so foreign, an abstract indulgence for people abroad. But today, drugs are everywhere in this country.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crimes noted that about 284 million people used drugs worldwide in 2021. In another report, there’s a 20-40% prevalence of drug abuse among students. An NDLEA news article revealed that the organization believes that about 40 percent of Nigeria’s underage youths are actively involved in drug use and trafficking. 

Why do I think this is now a pandemic? Because between 2010 to 2021, people using drugs increased by 26 percent. The number on the African continent would have increased by 40 percent come 2030, with Nigeria having a significantly higher use rate than the global average. Our first  large-scale study in 2018 revealed that one in seven persons aged 15-64 had used some form of hard drug in the past year. 

It’s even more real when I can point to people I’ve been in contact with who are using. The scariest part is that anyone could be using and you wouldn’t notice anything is off. Many people have perfected the art of doing drugs, acting polished, and seeming normal. In 2020, I knew people who posted WhatsApp statuses requesting sellers of molly, MDMA, and the like. Some simply termed them “happy pills.” 

It’s deeply troubling how these things have become a norm. Perhaps, what birthed this article is the casualty of drug usage. Of course, this isn’t just Nigerian. A recent study suggests that people now see drugs as less of a health and social threat, increasing usage globally. There are more treatment options, and drug legalization discusses are opening up in some countries. So when you ask people, they say they are not addicted but merely using for fun. “Relax. Live a little.” As a famous Fuji musician sang, “ò ń f’ikú ṣeré. 

I think fun is a funny word. I’m often confused whenever it’s used because, in my experience, it can mean just about anything. For example, when an African mother uses it, she probably means sex and flirting. “If you like, say you are having fun and come home pregnant.” They can’t seem for the life of them to say the word sex but instead refer to it as having fun, but I digress. But Gen Zs and millennials have a funny use of the word too. To many, fun means throwing stones at glass ceilings and trying different keys on death’s door. Drug abuse is fun. 

We live in a country that lacks. We lack basic healthcare, regulations, due processes, and proper law enforcement. Beyond the general risks associated with any dependency or addiction, drug exposes you to cardiovascular problems, lung, liver, and kidney damage, increased risk of contracting HIV and Hepatitis B, paranoia, memory loss, etc. You know the drill.

But while treatment options abroad are numerous, a Nigerian has no such luxury. Our healthcare system is entirely shitty. If you are a known user, you’ll probably get discriminatory treatment from judgemental healthcare practitioners. A family friend interned at #Aro, the popular mental health institution, and some of the tales were utterly horrible. She, a completely sane person, almost lost her mind by interning in the drug use ward. 

Even worse, there are still checks in many advanced countries about what’s mixed in these drugs. But a Nigerian has no such safety. Knowing how you can rub the right hands and get away with anything, even our foods are not free of harmful substances. You can buy the wrong pill someone advertises for menstrual pain in a motor park on your way to Osogbo and fall sick for weeks. 

Now imagine illegal drugs that go through absolutely no form of regulation. They contain any and everything to increase the potency and make more money. Gutter water combines tramadol, cannabis, codeine, vodka, etc. Monkey tail has homemade gin, cannabis, pawpaw leaves, La Casera apple, TomTom menthol, and other unknown herbs. People inhale burning tires, nail polish, and Zakami leaves. You now have to ask if birthday cakes are laced. You can attend parties now and return home with anything in your system. And not to exaggerate, the wrong quantities can kill you, and nobody will give a shit. 

The funny thing about this is nobody is off the list. Anybody could be “using” – including the Pastor, the Pastor’s child, the devout Muslim, the genius, and the lackadaisical colleague. This is why I’m no longer comfortable accepting things from friends and strangers. People have an almost obsessive need to ‘initiate’ everyone else. 

I was invited to a party in May, and the undertones made me refuse to go. When I recently asked other friends who went for gist, they told me they’d almost been tricked into consuming watermelons. Thankfully, one of them had seen videos on the internet and cajoled the organizers into confessing that the watermelons were laced. How the hell does one even lace watermelons?

The 2018 UNODC report also revealed that one in five persons abusing drugs had started to show symptoms of drug-related disorders within a few years. But when the effects of continuous drug use begin to show, nobody ever seems to think of drugs as the culprit. If we don’t attribute some actions to poor manners, then they are caused by spiritual attacks. 

People often joke on Twitter about how a profitable business in the next five to ten years would be a rehab or a dialysis center. I agree with them. Many people will need to be sent to one as things get worse. But most people who would need this care won’t be able to afford it. 

Again, ours is a country that lacks. We are piss poor, and it’s only getting worse. People can’t afford the basics, unemployment is rampant, our healthcare is in hell, and the government doesn’t care. Unless you have a grand plan to japa and then spend a significant period in rehab, you may want to cut back on drugs now. Being Nigerian is enough to drive you insane, so wouldn’t it be weird to hasten your malady? 

To an extent, it’s understandable. The pressure is getting “wesser and wesser,” and as a Nigerian fighting hard for your life, you may be depressed. Drugs are known to be a great temporary fix. For many people, they even increase productivity.

However, drugs are like anesthesia – their effects are momentary. They won’t cure the roots of the problem. Please, seek professional help. Indulge yourself with little, harmless things. Buy roasted corn, boli and ẹpa, watch movies, dance in the rain, have protected sex, laugh with friends, club hard, and play games. They won’t end your pain, but perhaps, they’ll ease it

Tobi-Makinde Melody and Oladipo Waliyah ©’22

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