Drug and substance abuse, currently approaching an alarming dimension among the young population in the country, may get worse if urgent measures are not taken. This was the warning from Dr. Lolu Ojo, chairman, drug and substance abuse committee of the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPHARM) at a news conference in Lagos.
The event, tagged: Pharmacy United Against Drug Abuse, aimed at highlighting the ongoing efforts by pharmacists and pharmacy institutions geared towards combating the menace of drug and substance abuse in the country. Ojo hinted that there is practically no major city in Nigeria that does not have hideouts or joints or clubs or ram-shackled places where the young ones gather to buy or use drugs of different descriptions to feel good. Despite rising awareness about substance abuse, there is very little data to show the extent of the problem in the country – though he said drug abuse is assuming a staggering and unsavoury dimension. He went ahead to buttress his assertion with some statistics.
“In a 2018 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODOC), and endorsed by the ex-minister of health, Prof Isaac Adewole, and the statistician- general of the federation, Dr. Yemi Kale, it was revealed that Nigeria has 10.6m users of cannabis (Indian Hemp), 4.6m users of pharmaceutical opioids, 238,000 amphetamine users, one out of every five users of drugs (and opioids) already dependent, one out of every three cannabis users already dependent. Overall, 14.4 per cent of the population or 14.4 million people, aged between 15 and 64 years old are drug users and one out of every four drug users is a woman.
“There are unconfirmed reports that the age of use has gone down to 7 years, which means that the children in primary schools are already involved. We wish to sound a note of warning that this challenge may even be more than the current official estimates at our disposal and we will request the nation to be aware of the iceberg phenomenon that this subject may present before us,” Ojo warned.
To curb this menace as a frontline stakeholder in this issue, Olu said the academy has decided to mobilise all pharmaceutical professionals, trade and regulatory groups to come together and assist government to eliminate the scourge from the society. “The academy is concerned that the abuse of drugs and other substance has become widespread in recent time particularly among the youthful population in Nigeria. The menace of drug abuse needs to be checked; otherwise, it can impair all the efforts being made to put the nation on a higher political and economic pedestal. We must do something now to stem the tide before it brings calamity on our society because drug and substance use is a self-destructive indulgence that can lead to significant problems and distress,” he said.
To this end, the academy said it will hold a 1000-man sensitisation and awareness walk to educate and inform the public on the dangers inherent in drug abuse. It will take place on Monday June 10, followed by a symposium the next day, with the theme: sustainable approach to the eradication of drug and substance abuse in Nigeria. This, the academy said, will help the nation to embark on a root cause analysis of drug abuse and provide information to government on possible remedies.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, president of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), also expressed concerns on the menace of drug abuse that is ravaging the country. He fingered the biting socio-economic situation in the country as part of the root cause of drug abuse, adding that it is obvious that many Nigerians are increasingly finding it difficult to cope with the situation, forcing them to seek escape route from the prevailing harsh economic realities by getting involved in drug abuse. “For us as pharmacists, it is part of our responsibility to ensure that drugs are not abused or misused. Every medicine ought to pass through a pharmacy. Pharmacist should be of good conduct to ensure the efficacy and sustainability of drugs. The effect of substance abuse is enormous and is affecting people’s level of productivity, which in turn is affecting national effort to grow the economy,” he said. He stated further that the PSN is determined to work with the government to minimise substance abuse to the level that it would no longer be a subject of concern, adding that to achieve the objective all hands must be on deck.