Nigeria: Drug Abuse Menace in Nigeria - a Time to Act

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19 September 2019

In a recent report on drugs by the European Union (EU), the number of drug users in Nigeria is estimated to 24.4 percent or 14.3 million people aged between 15 and 64 years. This is according to the results of the National Drugs use Survey for 2018 released in Abuja by the European Union.

The data suggest that the prevalence of past-year drug use in Nigeria is more than twice the global average of 5.6 percent.

The report highlights a considerable level of past-year use of psychoactive substances in Nigeria, in particular, the use of cannabis, the non-medical use of prescription opioids (mainly tramadol, and to a lesser extent, codeine).

A dichotomy in the prevalence of drug use was found between the north and south geopolitical zones. The highest prevalence of drug use was found in the southern political zones ( 13.8-22.4 percent of the population) compared to the north ( 10-14.9 percent of the population ).

People who inject drugs constitute a sizable proportion of high-risk drug users in Nigeria. 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 social consequences of drug use are also evident in Nigeria. Key informants considered that there were major social problems such as disruption in family lives, loss in productivity and legal problems as consequences of drug/ substance abuse in their communities. Also, nearly one in eight persons in the general population had experienced consequences due to other people's drug use in their families, workplace, and communities.

Key Findings:

In Nigeria, one in seven persons aged 15-64 years had used drugs.

Among every four users in Nigeria, one is a woman.

The highest levels of drug use in Nigeria are among those aged 25-39 years.

One in five persons that use drugs in Nigeria is suffering from drug disorder.

Cannabis is the most common drug. The average age of initiation of cannabis use among the general population is 19 years.

Geographically, the highest prevalence of drug use was found in the southern geopolitical zone.

Yobe, Imo, Bayelsa, Rivers and Lagos states were ranked as "the states where it was more difficult to access treatment for drug use disorder".

The findings from the European Union report provided evidence to inform the national debate among policymakers and other stakeholders for reviewing and updating the current National Drug Control Master Plan.

Considering the extent of non- medical use of pharmaceutical opioids, tranquilizers, and cough syrups among the adult population, while ensuring that the controlled substances and adequately made available for medical and scientific purposes, it is imperative to address their diversion from licit channels as well as their illicit production or availability in the illicit markets in the form of spurious or fraudulent medicines.

Programs for the prevention of drug use, prevention and care of HIV, Hepatitis C and other infections among high-risk drug users need to be upscaled with wider geographical coverage of those interventions.

Therefore, availability, accessibility, and coverage of quality and evidence-based effective treatment and care services for people with drug use disorders are priorities to address in Nigeria.

Another area of consideration is to develop gender-specific treatment programs that would take into account in their design and delivery of services among other issues, sexual and reproductive health, social welfare and child care needs unique to women.

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