Liberia: 'Unemployment, Idleness Responsible for Drug Addiction'

-Observes Dr. Vernon E. Proctor, U.S. Addiction Medicine Consultant

Dr. Vernon E. Proctor, a U.S. Addiction Medicine Consultant, has blamed drug addiction on idleness and the lack of employment opportunities to empower the citizens.

In his powerpoint presentation recently at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) Memorial Medical Center, Dr. Vernon cautioned that once a society remains full of idle minds and a high rate of unemployment, that society is prone to become greatly affected by drugs addiction.

"For as long as human beings have had ways to feel good, we have struggled to know when it is time to stop," he said with emphasis on why drug addicts do not care about letting the habit go away from them so easily.

Dr. Vernon who is in Liberia on a visit, is a personal friend to Dr. Emmanuel Ekyinabah, president of the Liberia Medical and Dental Association (LMDA).

He said the issue of drug addiction is not just unique to Liberia, but the U.S, and many other developed and developing countries.

"Many therapists and other health practitioners, and the institutions they work for around the world are interested in the money they make from giving out certain highly addictive drugs. This is why 'Tramadol' and a lot more of other palliative drugs (which lessen or stop pains) get in the hands of those, who have wrong ideas about how they should be used," he said.

He called on his fellow doctors, dentists and other health practitioners to be agents by giving great assistance to their patients.

"The drug addicts are seeking happiness, because they are in search of what they love, and what and who loves them. Therefore, you should be on the watch against seeing your patients overdosing themselves with certain medical prescriptions," Dr. Vernon admonished.

Using the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)'s definition, he defined drug addiction as a "primary chronic disease of the brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry."

He added: "Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, pathological, social and spiritual manifestations."

He said further that in the U.S., there is so much battle against alcoholism and drug addiction, as well as gambling.

"It is a very big challenge not only for Africa, and some parts of Asia, but the U.S. too. The U.S. is not a heaven as portrayed by many out there. We too have these challenges and government has to work assiduously all through the day to deal with the multiple crimes that are committed by people, simply because they are addicts of either alcohol or cocaine or some kind of illegal substances," Dr. Vernon said.

About the adverse effects of alcohol, he said people who drink usually suffer from emotional outbursts, depression, decreased memory and concentration, and decreased sexual response.

"Let me inform you that in 2017, about 47,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses. There were 1,300 deaths daily just from drugs addiction," Dr. Vernon said, adding that 20 million Americans, 12 years and older, had some kind of substance use disorder (SUD) in 2018.

"Not trying to impose the American realities on you, but I am sharing these facts to let you know of what the challenge is like with a nation that is the world's super power. This helps you to evaluate your realities and think of how to help your country curtail, if not completely eliminate the high rate of drugs and alcohol addiction," he said.

He said there are always mental health complications that follow alcohol and drug addictions.

Dr. Vernon said even though the root causes of addiction are yet to be known, addiction can be classified into prescription drug and gambling addictions.

"Other forms of addiction are eating disorders, gaming addiction and pornography addiction," he said.

JFK Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Jerry Brown, applauded Dr. Vernon for the lessons shared, and assured him of his office's commitment to work along with him.

Dr. Brown said there are multiple challenges in the Liberian health system, and by extension several other national areas of service, but there is still a hope that for the good of the people for whom he and his colleagues have learned and continue to learn, things will improve.

In a related development, shortly after Dr. Vernon's presentation, the LMDA donated a washing machine to enable the JFK family stop using their bare hands to clean stains from their clothes and other materials they have used on patients.

Dr. Mohammed Swaray, proprietor of the Swaray/Medicover Clinics in Paynesville, delivered the washing machine to the LMDA.

"On behalf of the LMDA family we are pleased to turn over to the authorities of the John F. Kennedy Hospital this washer. This will ease the burden of using our hands to wash working tools and outfits," Dr. Emmanuel Ekyinaibah said as he presented the washer to Dr. Brown.

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