‘Social pathologies, stress and availability are causes of drug abuse’
Mitchelle Ofoyeju, Head of Public Affairs of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) told ODITA SUNDAY in Lagos that the agency is working hard to reduce substance abuse in the country.
Is it true that more youths are engaging in drug/substance abuse?
Let me start with the definition of a drug. A drug is any chemical substance, which, when taken into the body by any means whatsoever, changes the functions of the body or behaviour of the person or user.
A drug is said to be abused when it is used in a manner that deviates from medically-approved or socially-acceptable patterns within society.
Simply put, a drug is said to be abused when its use is not medically necessary, that is, when it is taken for non-medical purpose; when its use is legally prohibited and when it is excessively used, especially as in case of socially acceptable drugs, like alcohol, cigarettes, etc.
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is working very hard to reduce drug or substance abuse in the country.
In 2014, a total of 3,403 persons received counseling, while 3,104 cases were handled last year. This shows that there was a reduction of 299 cases last year, as against 2014.
It is important to state that people with drug use problem are not criminals; rather they are the victims of drug trafficking and therefore need care, love and attention of family members.
The agency is interested in identifying root causes of drug use. Some reasons why people use drugs include peer group pressure, which is characterised by the desire to be accepted among friends or in social circles.
Social pathologies, such as unemployment and economic frustration, may also lead people to engage in drug use.
There is also emotional and psychological stress characterised by anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, etc.
Others are availability of the substance, hereditary, environmental influence from family, school, workplace, neighbourhood or community.
What category of youths abuse drugs/substance the most?
We have observed that substance abuse starts as early as age 13. It might look shocking, but it is true.
Apart from cocaine and Indian hemp, what other drugs/substances do they abuse?
Apart from cocaine and cannabis, people also use heroin and psychoactive substances, like Tramadol, Pemoline, Lexotan and Diazepam.
Others are cough syrups with codeine content, white end of lizard dung, local plant called zakami, rubber solution, nail polish remover and petrol, to mention a few.
We observed that when Class A drugs are not available, the inordinate quest to get high equally drive people to use substances that are legal and can intoxicate them and are highly addictive.
Members of the public must understand that the use of addictive drugs disrupts the way the brain controls the senses, movements, thoughts and emotions.
This occurs in a way that people who use these drugs depend on them to feel normal and avoid painful symptoms of withdrawal.
What is the NDLEA doing to check this social malaise and what are the long and short-term implications for society if it is not checked?
The NDLEA has a responsibility to assist people with drug use problem live a drug-free life. There are numerous programmes for preventing and reducing use of drugs.
This is done mainly through public enlightenment, like campaigns, seminars and workshops aimed at educating the public on the dangers of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, thereby stimulating interest in drug-related problems.
There is also after-care rehabilitation and social re-integration of persons who are free from drug use.
Does the agency have any rehabilitation centre for drug addicts?
The NDLEA has counseling services in all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
There are also privately-owned and faith-based rehabilitation homes across the country.
What is government doing through your agency to check this ugly trend?
Government has taken a major step with the establishment of the NDLEA, which is addressing the problem on two major platforms. These are drug supply control and drug demand reduction.
Drug supply control refers to enforcement measures, like arrest, drug seizures and prosecution of drug barons.
The agency records arrests and drug seizures on regular basis. Many cannabis farms have been detected and destroyed to cut off cannabis supply to end-users.
Still on suppressing illicit drug production, the NDLEA has discovered 11 clandestine laboratories for methamphetamine production in the country from 2011 to date.
The recent super laboratory detected in Asaba, Delta State is a product of painstaking investigation. It had a production capacity of 3,000kgs to 4,000kgs of methamphetamine per cycle.
Those arrested for operating the laboratory include four Mexicans and four Nigerians.
On the other hand, drug demand reduction deals with techniques of reducing the consumer demand for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances usually through enlightenment, treatment and rehabilitation.
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