27 June 2019

Nigeria: First Lady Decries Rising Cases of Drug Abuse

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(file photo).

Abuja — The First Lady, Aisha Buhari wednesday expressed regret over the increasing cases of drug abuse, particularly in the northern part of the country.

She said that drug abuse had become a multi-faceted problem which required a multi-dimensional approach.

Speaking at a conference to mark this year's international day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking which was organised by MTN Foundation in partnership with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), she said there should be a balance between drug demand reduction and total blockage of identified channels of supplies if the ongoing campaign to eliminate drug abuse is to be successful.

Represented at the occasion by wife of the Vice President, Dolapo Osinbajo, Buhari said the menace has become a major source of concern, especially in the North.

The conference was themed:'Justice for Health, Health for Justice; Working together for a Drug Free Nation."

She said: "The challenge of drug abuse as especially manifested in the northern part of the country, has been a source of great concern to me. The traumatic experience of a mother watching her off springs waste away is agonising and can only be imagined.

"Indeed, drug abuse is a multi-faceted problem requiring a multi-dimensional approach which should aim at striking a balance between drug demand reduction and total blockage of identified channels of supplies if the ongoing campaign to eliminate drug abuse is to be successful.

"To remedy the situation, implementing policies to enable the fusion of strong family units becomes essential as it provides the moral foundation through proper parental guidance to nurture children, attend to their needs and guide them properly to adulthood."

However, Chairman, MTN Foundation, Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, said Nigerians as well as corporate organisations have a duty to ensure that the menace of drug and substance abuse was addressed as soon as possible.

He said drug and substance abuse has become a national emergency the country must address.

He said:"Something can and should be done about this situation. And we at the MTN foundation are very keen to spare head this project and we invite other corporate bodies to join us to address this particular challenge.

"We need a team spirit, a team work across the professions. We need to embark on a robust awareness campaign to draw attention to this problem."

The chad "Justice for Health, Health for justice; working together for a drug free nation" as its theme.

In January, a report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) lamented widespread drug abuse in the country.

It stated that the extent of drug use in the country was comparatively high when compared with the 2016 global annual prevalence of 5.6 per cent among the adult population, a report on Drug Use in Nigeria 2018 has stated.

The NBS noted that past year prevalence of any drug use in the country is estimated at 14.4 per cent or 14.3 million people aged between 15 and 64 years.

It further highlighted a considerable level of past-year use of psychoactive substances, particularly "the use of cannabis, the non-medical use of prescription opioids (mainly tramadol, and to lesser extent codeine, or morphine) and cough syrups (containing codeine or dextromethorphan)".

The study indicated that drug use was prevalent between the northern and southern geopolitical zones.

It noted: "Highest past-year prevalence of drug use was found in the southern political zones: South-East, South-West, and South-South zones (past year prevalence ranging between 13.8 - 22.4 per cent of the population) compared to the North (ranging between 10 - 14.9 per cent of the population)."

The statistical agency stated that people who inject drugs constitute a sizeable proportion of high risk drug users in the country.

"One in five high risk drug users is injecting drugs. The most common drugs injected in the past year were pharmaceutical opioids, followed by cocaine and heroin. While overall, more men were injecting drugs, women were more likely than men to report injecting heroin.

"The extent of risky injecting practices and sexual behaviours among the high

risk drug users and in particular those who inject drugs is also of concern as is the extent of self-reported HIV among this group. Women who injected drugs were more likely than men to engage in high-risk sexual behaviours further compounding their risk for acquiring HIV among other infections."

The report added: "There is a clear gap in meeting the needs for treatment and care for people with drug use disorders. Two-

thirds of high-risk drug users reported a self-perceived need for drug treatment.

"Around 40 per cent among those reported that they had wanted to receive drug treatment but were unable to access such services. The cost of treatment, stigma associated with accessing such services as well as stigma associated with substance use in general, and availability of adequate drug treatment services were the major barriers in accessing drug treatment in Nigeria."

However, Statistician General of the Federation/Chief Executive, NBS, Dr. Yemi Kale said drug use as well as its attendant consequences are "fast becoming one of the increasingly talked about challenges across our country today."

According to him: "It has, and still continues to affect the lives of many individuals, families, organisations and communities across our country. Many families have been broken, lives lost and relationships destroyed as a result of drug use.

"It has also contributed to several adverse public health conditions and increased criminal activities. Accordingly, it

is time to put in place, comprehensive measures designed to tackle this growing problem before it becomes an even worse national challenge."

Kale said the 89-page report will provide good and comprehensive basis for understanding the nature and severity of drug use in the country as well as provide information on high drug users, health consequences of drug use and the social implications of drug use, including harm to users and others.

However, speaking at the occasion, Chairman of NDLEA, Col. Muhammed Abdallah (rtd), said that the conference was an opportunity for the organisation to review its successes and challenges against the problem of drug and substance abuse.

He noted that the effort of the Federal Government to address this challenge was yielding results are there had been reduction in the smuggling of tramadol in the country.

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