By Raphael Adeyemi, PhD
Today, June 26 2023 – we’ll yet adjust our global gaze and keenly look towards drug and substance abuse.
It’s the #International Day Against #drugabuse and Illicit #DrugTrafficking and the theme this year is ” People first: stop stigma and discrimination, strengthen prevention.”
A day like this gives us all another opportunity to review and revamp our individual and collective effort in stemming the evil tide of substance abuse and drug trafficking.
I am particularly bothered about drug abuse because in the course of my official and personal engagements, I have seen first hand, the grave and pitiable consequences of this vice.
Folks chained like dogs; clean babes and guys in sad lunatic display; needless raw marathon sexual competition… Sad!
Friends, even when imagined, the physical, medical, emotional, spiritual, mental and financial effects of abusing drugs and other substances are scary, how much more when experienced.
But the act and its consequences are with us already. And why won’t they when a better percentage of movies and lyrics of songs released and celebrated by young ones are ladened with both subtle and direct glorification of vices including substance abuse.
Yet we have a Board whose duties include the censorship of such things…
And so today, like every other day when we create or find the opportunity, we cannot but reverberate a vital message, raise our voices in unison against a scourge that is spreading like wild fire, trapping our young ones and clipping the wings of men and women, who are designed to mount like eagles.
For the sake of emphasis, the International Day against #Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is set aside to raise awareness about the major problems that the unlawful use and distribution of drugs portend for the society.
And yes, without any fear of contradiction, I wish to state emphatically that the scourge of drug #abuse has reached a scary, dangerous, alarming and precarious level, as the number of young people, who are being trapped is on a startling upsurge in #Nigeria.
According to statistics given by the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brigadier Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa at a forum in May 2023, more than 14.3 million Nigerians aged 15-64 years use psychoactive substances other than alcohol and tobacco, thereby constituting grave danger for the future of youth in the countr
And please do not entertain the thought in your heart that any gender, age grade, social class, religious faithfuls are not involved. Victims and perpetrators cut across all classes.
For most people, this dangerous dive into the deep ocean of drug abuse started innocently, as a form of experiment or response to peer pressure.
Gradually, they may miss or frequently be late for work or school, their job performance may progressively deteriorate, and they start to neglect social or family obligations.
Eventually, the ability to stop using drugs is compromised and what began as a voluntary choice turns into a physical and psychological trap.
Today, it is almost becoming ‘normal’ for folks to get high on skunk, weed, codeine, tramadol, and other substances such as glue, petrol, stench from pit latrine, gutters and aerosols like nasal sprays. Hmmm!
And if you look carefully and well enough, there is most likely, someone around you, who is deeply involved. That person may even be under your roof!
Never think that innocent friend or child is as innocent as he or she looks. Be alert and inquisitive, get familiar with the signs and symptoms of drug users.
And if I may ask, Is the effect of drug abuse not seen in the high rate of crime, #rape incidences, kidnapping, suicide, poor health condition, #violence, academic failure, cultism, thuggery and other social vices?
A saying in yoruba parlance lends credence to this – ‘ Ojú lásán òse se wèrè’ meaning you can’t engage in vices without being under an influence. One of such influence is drugs.
It is almost needless to repeat that the consequences of drug abuse are numerous:
Financially drug abuse is draining, as it compels its victims to borrow, steal, beg or sell all or some of their valuables to keep up with the habit.
Academically , it does not help, because the time one ought to devote to reading and studying is taken over by getting busy with drugs and this may lead to low grades and failure.
Spiritually, the devil uses it against your relationship with God, steals your joy and most likely doing drugs would lead a person away from God and His people.
Mentally, it distorts the proper functioning of one’s brain, leading to impaired vision and judgment.
As drug abuse takes hold, a person may miss or frequently be late for work or school, the job performance may progressively deteriorate, and he or she starts to neglect social or family obligations.
And then, the ability to stop using it is eventually compromised. So what began as a voluntary choice has turned into a physical and psychological need and I tell you, it’s not worth the trouble!
So What can I do?
Just in case you are concerned and have asked yourself the question above, let me remind you of the words of Helen Keller who said “ I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
This clearly shows that personal responsibility is key. We cannot afford to wait for government at any level before we take action.
Parents, NGOs, CSOs, FBOs, Traditional Leaders, Churches, Mosques, NDLEA, Counsellors, NAFDAC, MDAs individuals and indeed every other stakeholder need to accept the reality that this problem is beyond what we can treat with kid gloves.
THE BATTLE IS REAL AND IT APPEARS WE ARE LOOSING OUR SOLDIERS TO THIS DEADLY ACT.
We need to do more by taking personal responsibility to solve this problem with or without government’s intervention.
?? You can educate yourself by reading about drug abuse, symptoms and other basic things.
?? You can join or support the numerous Civil Society Organisations that work in that area.
?? You can even float an NGO, a virtual or physical platform focused on enlightenment and orientation to prevent others from stepping into this ditch
?? You can establish an organization that reforms and rehabilitates drug users
?? We need more ‘drugfree clubs in primary and secondary schools
??We need more private rehabilitation centres built
?? We need Churches and Mosques to create avenues, platforms and programmes that would unveil and dissect this act and minister complete healing to those already involved
?? You can do so much and we can do much more…
To my young people out there, know this, YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO DRUGS TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS
Thousands of young people like you and I are making an impact around the world, and they are not under the influence of ANY drug.
Just in case you are reading this, and you are hooked to substance abuse (or you know someone who is), I DO NOT CONDEMN YOU , but you must realize that you are hooked to a dangerous master, and you need to be free, so that you can live the good life God designed for you.
The help you need is a mix of Spiritual, Medical, Psychological intervention which are readily available to you through government and nongovernmental organisations you can be referred to.
I can be of help in this area if you will ‘sorosoke’
Friends, my appeal is simple, I urge everyone to take both personal and collective actions to end this scourge, particularly in Nigeria, by becoming interested in issues that bother on substance abuse even if your children are not involved.
You never know the impact of your effort.
So much more to say…
Raphael Oluwamayowa Adeyemi writes from Ilorin, Nigeria.
He is the Director of Operations
Synergy For Positive Development
You can reach him via Raphaeladeyemi81@gmail.com