According to a survey done by Quartz Africa, “around 40% of the two-thirds of high-risk drug users who reportedly need treatment for drug use was unable to access appropriate healthcare services.”
This means that one of the most understaffed professions within the medical industry is that of the treatment of drug abuse and it goes without any atom of doubt that any illness that cannot be easily treated may become explosive enough to cripple an economy.
A raid on one of Nigeria’s largest ports in 2018 led to the confiscation of over 500 million tablets of Tramadol, an opioid often used as a pain relief drug. I think it is safe to assume that if over half a billion tablets of Tramadol was being shipped into a country with a total population of 200 million people, then a considerably huge proportion of the entire population must definitely be hooked on drugs.
It’s saddening that over the past few years, the government has tried multiple times to nip the problem of drug abuse in the bud but rather than get abated, it’s increasingly becoming a major issue among young adults in Nigeria, irrespective of their status or impact in society.
In fact, in the streets of Lagos today, high-risk drugs such as Monkey tail; a mixture of a wide variety of hard drugs to give an explosive high, are on the rise. Anyone who uses this concoction runs the risk of overdosing on the mixture and has led to the loss of numerous young lives in Nigeria.
A 2019 survey showed that at least 10.6 million Nigerians were hooked on cannabis, 4.6 million were hooked on opioids, 2.3 million were hooked on cough syrups. The situation has deteriorated so much that some go as far as sniffing glue, urine, petrol, sewage, and other substances just to achieve the needed high.
UNDERSTANDING DRUG ABUSE
The issue of drug abuse is not a phenomenon that came into existence yesterday but has been around, as far back as, the early days of human civilization.
Drug abuse is the inappropriate use of substances which includes the excessive intake of alcohol, self-prescribed medication, or illegal drugs for purposes such as pleasure, to feel or perform better in certain situations, or to change one’s perception of reality.
Abusing most of the powerful substances can cause or even create both changes in behavior and in the way the brain works which can shut down or disrupt the human body, specifically in the areas governing judgment and reward.
This is one of the problems most countries in the world are facing and a lot of young people are at higher risk due to certain influences.
Further abuse of substances can be a huge sign to look out for if an individual is beginning to lose control over their drug use. For instance, the popular actor and musician Demi Lovato was at the point of death when she excessively took a different mixture of hard drugs.
She revealed that it is a thing she had always kept secret from her family and friends, till she landed in the hospital and after that, she also disclosed 3 strokes and continuous heart attack. Her brain was also damaged due to a near-fatal drug overdose. Drug abuse and addiction change your brain chemistry.
The longer you abuse your drug of choice, the more damage is done, which makes it harder for you to go back to “normal” during drug rehab.
Drug abuse not only affects the individual but can also have far-reaching consequences that affect family, employment, personal health, health care systems, local communities, and society as a whole. It was revealed that the earlier in one’s life that drug abuse begins, the more likely an individual will be to become addicted.
Substance use in teens and young adults can become part of a pattern of unsafe behaviors, including unsafe sex and driving under the influence. Some typical examples of the most abused drugs are marijuana, tranquilizers, Stimulants, sedatives, cocaine, inhalants, and heroin.
RISKS OF ABUSING DRUGS
Every individual who has been a victim of drug abuse has claimed to derive one or more pleasurable benefits from it, failing to realize that there are deadlier underlying effects.
Drugs are substances that have the capacity to affect how the brain and body function. Each drug has its own effect, as some are short-term while some are permanent even after the person has stopped taking the drug.
Short-term effects are those risks that occur over time due to small episodes of drug abuse or inappropriate use. The effect depends on the type of drug being used and the manner in which the drug was used.
Short term effects include: Changes in appetite; Sleeplessness or insomnia; Slurred speech; A temporary sense of euphoria; Loss of coordination
Long term effects include:
Most drug abusers inject substances into their bodies through equipment previously used by someone else. Hepatitis C is the most frequent disease of drug abusers. This doesn’t exclude Hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS. Bacterial infections may also cause local abscess at the injection site and damage their veins.
Smoking illegal drugs can lead to respiratory problems including chronic cough, wheezing and shortness of breath, and severe bronchitis. Medical experts have discovered that opioids have the ability to reduce a person’s breathing by knotting receptors in the central nervous system that control respiration. If the drug abuser takes a larger dose of opioids especially with other drugs such as sleep aids or alcohol, the person could stop breathing.
Mental Health Disorders
Regular drug abusers may experience mental disorders including hallucinations, paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggression, etc
Stimulants including cocaine and methamphetamine have the ability to impair the heart and blood vessels while long-term use could lead to coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, and heart attack.
A regular user has tendencies of becoming dependent on the drug. Failure to use the drug could make the user become irrational. A drug abuser would do anything to obtain the drug. Several drugs could result in dependence including alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and other dependence drugs.
One out of ten reported deaths is mostly a drug-related death as drug abuse has increased over the years. From alcohol to illicit drugs and self-prescription, there are more deaths as a result of substance abuse than other health conditions.
POPULAR SCENARIOS OF DRUG ABUSE
Let’s take a look at a number of real-life scenarios of Drug Abuse cases and how it ended for them.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti
Afrobeats legendry musician, Fela Aikulapo was a man who lived his life based on his love for Drugs, women, and activism. Although he claimed to preach against drug abuse, he was a regular offender when it came to it. Gradually, he rubbed off on people around him, his wives, dancers, and band members and it soon became an addiction.
In April 1997, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and107members and supporters of his music group were apprehended by Nigeria’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for possession of the drugs, generally termed “Indian Hemp” at his shrine. This was roughly one year after he was detained briefly for possession of cannabis.
Previously, Fela, along with members of his group had fallen foul by the NDLEA for the possession of 10 kg of hemp but he was released for counseling.
The NDLEA Boss at the time, Bamaiyi has released a statement that revealed that Fela had absolutely no regrets and remained unremorseful of his actions.
He said, “We can no longer hope against hope. Fela seems, from all indications, to be enjoying his action which has wrecked so many lives and we at the agency are now poised to redress this misdeed, once and for all. Regrettably, Fela has remained unrepentant in his habit. His followers seem to be on the increase daily”
At the time, Fela had already begun to look emaciated, but surprisingly unruffled. When Fela was cross-examined by Bamaiyi, he disclosed that he did not believe that Indian Hemp was a drug. Backing his statement up, he said, “It energizes. I smoke this grass because it is an artistic phenomenon. It makes me eat well, has good composition, and makes me sleep well with women”
Majekodunmi Fasheke (Majek Fashek)
Majek Fashek, also dubbed ‘The Rainmaker’ was a Nigerian singer-songwriter, guitarist, and reggae music lord, who threw music lovers into mourning after he died in New York, America.
Majek Fashek delved into Drugs after his international recognition and trip to Jamaica. His drug addiction became overbearing, to a point where rehabilitation was his next available option. Although he was hesitant at first, it was not long before he came to the realization that, rehab was this last resort.
Opening up on his time in Rehab, Majek told punch newspaper that he delved into doing drugs for inspirational purposes and called it the lifestyle of musicians, adding that he had never tasted alcohol or did drugs while growing up.
He admitted that it was hard to make music without getting high, but he was working on an alternative mode of inspiration.
WAYS TO GET CLEAN FROM DRUG ABUSE
Who Should You Seek Help From?
What Sort Of Help Should You Get?
What Should You Expect When seeking Help?
How Long Does It Take To Come Clean Completely?
These and many more could be running through your mind at this point. But first, you must understand that developing an addiction to drugs isn’t a character flaw or a sign of weakness in an individual.
It takes more than just willpower to overcome the problem as abusing illegal or certain prescription drugs can create changes in the brain, causing powerful cravings and a compulsion to use that makes sobriety seem like an impossible goal.
But getting a recovery is never out of reach, no matter how hopeless your situation seems or how many times you’ve tried and failed before. Going with the right treatment and support, change is always possible.
For people struggling with addiction, the toughest step toward recovery is the very first one, which is recognizing that you have a problem and deciding to make a change.
Recovery requires time, motivation, and support, but by making a commitment to change, you can as well, overcome your addiction and regain control of your life.
It is also important to note that addiction treatment can vary according to the specific drug, a successful program often includes different elements, such as:
Detoxification: Usually the first step is to purge your body of drugs and manage withdrawal symptoms.
Behavioral counseling: Individual, group, and/or family therapy can help you identify the root causes of your drug use, repair your relationships and learn healthier coping skills.
Medication: May be used to managing withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, or treat any co-occurring mental health condition such as depression or anxiety.
Long-Term Follow-Up: Can help to prevent relapse and maintain sobriety. This may include attending regular in-person support groups or online meetings to help keep your recovery on track.
Meanwhile, there are some treatment programs available to people willing to have them. Some of which are:
Residential treatment: Residential treatment involves living at a facility and getting away from work, school, family, friends, and addiction triggers while undergoing intensive treatment. Residential treatment can last from a few days to several months.
Day treatment/Partial hospitalization: Partial hospitalization is for people who require ongoing medical monitoring but wish to still live at home and have a stable living environment. These treatment programs usually meet at a treatment center for 7 to 8 hours during the day, then you return home at night.
Outpatient treatment: Not a live-in treatment program, these outpatient programs can be scheduled around work or school. You’re treated during the day or evening but don’t stay overnight. The major focus is relapse prevention.
Sober living communities: Living in a sober house normally follows an intensive treatment program such as residential treatment. You live with other recovering addicts in a safe, supportive, and drug-free environment. Sober living facilities are useful if you have nowhere to go or you’re worried that returning home too soon will lead to relapse.
From all said and done, it is undeniable that drug abuse remains largely a more serious social problem among other vices affecting the Nigerian society and the world, most prominent in the face of freedom and independence of abusers.
Drug abuse is not confined to young people in certain geographical areas or from particular social-economic backgrounds. It affects the nation as a whole-both urban and rural areas.
It ruptures economic progress and diminishes a country’s human strength (this cannot be downplayed particularly in Nigeria) putting a strain on the health sector, family structure, security, and even the mortuary (there is high mortality among drug users which is difficult to get rid of).
But the good news is that there’s always a way out, not just peculiar to the affected persons but every single person as well as institutions in society. The government, parents, employers, teachers, counselors, doctors, the orientation and rehabilitation institutes, NGOs, the information ministry, the religious institutions, social media influencers, celebrities are all concerned in this and should unite to seeing that the menace which has become a public health challenge gets ridden.
In order to address this, the government must recognize the extent and seriousness of problems associated with drug addiction and make it a national priority. NGOs, Parents, Education, and religious institutions must also address the issues holistically and with vigor.
Strategic agencies (Nigeria Custom Services, NDLEA, and NAFDAC) responsible for the importation and regulation of controlled medicines must collaborate on the distribution and use of illicit drugs.
Nigeria must also bridge the major gaps in its healthcare system in meeting the needs for treatment and care for people with drug use disorders.