Intl. Day against Drug Abuse: Nigeria faces harder times over rising drug use

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As of Friday, various worrisome images and video clips suspected to be those of Chidinma Ojukwu, an undergraduate of Mass Communication Department at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, who is alleged to have murdered the chief executive officer of Super TV, Michael Ataga, surfaced on the social media.

One of such clips shows the 21-year-old smoking what looks like cannabis, and puffing intermittently.

Though PREMIUM TIMES could not independently confirm the identity of the smoker, but the suspect confessed on camera that, alongside the late sugar daddy, she had taken some intoxicants before struggles over sex led her to stabbing Mr Ataga to death.

That this matter takes the centrestage of public discourse in Nigeria few hours to the 2021 edition of International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, is a confirmation of the experts’ view that the country, and Africa by extension, sits dangerously on a keg of gunpowder over rising cases of drug use and drug abuse.

Various research outputs by experts and relevant national and international organisations have consistently revealed the dangerous rising cases of drug use in the country and the damaging consequences of violent crimes, abuses and health complications.

Today, like all over the world, the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC) says many Nigerian adolescents no longer see the harmful effects of cannabis despite its biting consequences.

Global statistics

On June 24, ahead of today’s celebration, UNODC launched its 2021 World Drug Report, noting that “around 275 million people used drugs worldwide in the last year, while over 36 million people suffered from drug use disorders.”

According to a consultant psychiatrist at 68, Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, Akin Oguntuase, some of these substance-induced disorders include; delirium, dementia, amnestic disorder, psychotic disorder, anxiety disorder, sexual dysfunction, among others.

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Dr Akin Oguntuase, consultant psychiatrist, 68, Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Lagos

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Dr Akin Oguntuase, consultant psychiatrist, 68, Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Lagos

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The report added that within the last 24 years, “cannabis potency had increased by as much as four times in parts of the world, even as the percentage of adolescents who perceived the drug as harmful fell by as much as 40 per cent, despite evidence that cannabis use is associated with a variety of health and other harms, especially among regular long-term users.”

Highlighting the implications of the dangerous trend, the UNODC executive director, Ghada Waly, said; “Lower perception of drug use risks has been linked to higher rates of drug use, and the findings of UNODC’s 2021 World Drug Report highlight the need to close the gap between perception and reality to educate young people and safeguard public health.”

The report observed that between 2010 and 2019, the number of people using drugs increased by 22 per cent. It linked the increase to the growing global population, and that following the demographic changes, it is projected that by 2030, the number of people using drugs would have further increased by 11 per cent.

Nigeria’s worse situation

In 2019, the 2018 National Drug Use Survey, a joint research by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse (CRISA) with technical support from the UNODC, was launched.

TEXEMTEXEM

The document gives a damning account of rising drug use in Nigeria, noting that as of the time of the research, 14.3 million Nigerians aged between 15 and 64 years engaged in drug use.

Of this figure, the survey added that about three million were drug dependent and suffering from substance-induced disorders.

But the latest report by the UNODC hints of a sharp degeneration above the global average in the near future.

According to the report, instead of the expected 11 per cent increase in the global number of drug users by 2030, the projection is 40 per cent in Nigeria, and the whole of Africa.

“In Nigeria, this would signify that the country will have to grapple with approximately 20 million drug users by 2030, further deepening the public health and public security challenge,” the report stated.

The statistics also says 11 million Nigerians took to cannabis as of 2018 while 4.6 million and 2.4 million others were said to have used opioids and cough syrups, respectively.

Other substances said to have been commonly taken in Nigeria include tranquilisers and sedatives, solvents and inhalers, among others.

According to the data, the prevalence of drug use in Nigeria on a geopolitical zonal basis reveals that the South-west tops the chart with about 4.382 million users amounting to 22.4 per cent of Nigeria’s total figure of 14.3 million users. The South-west comprises Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti states.

The North-west zone, comprising Kano, Sokoto, Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina and Kebbi States closely follows the South West with 3 million drug users as of 2018, while the South-south region of Edo, Delta, Rivers, Cross River, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom States ranks third with 2.124 million users.

The country’s region…

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