In recent times, the issue of substance or drug intake, abuse and addiction in Nigeria and globally has become alarming, and  ignorance of the damaging effects of these substances among the youths and older members of the larger society has become worrisome not only in the family circles but also in the wider society.

Drug is any substance that, when taken into the body changes one’s sensory perception, mood or behavior. But of particular reference here is psychoactive drugs or substances.

Some of these drugs are referred to as intoxicants, others as depressants. The youths take some of these drugs which ranges from alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, codeine, to cocaine, heroin etc., because of several reasons that are either personal or environmental. Some of these reasons are depression, curiosity, desire to feel belonged, peer influence, socio-economic condition etc. Some of the substances mentioned above are socially acceptable and legal, therefore leading to uninhibited consumption.

The common refrain or reaction among some abusers in Nigeria is; “something must kill a man”. The question is; if one knows that a particular ‘poison’ is dangerous to one’s health, would one consciously accept to take it? Because the damaging effects of some of these substances take long time to manifest, some people erroneously believe that they are harmless. Though some are conscious of the dangers inherent in the abuse of substances, they cannot help but continue because it is beyond their control. So much financial resources that could be invested in productive ventures are wasted in attempt to save the lives and careers of victims and on the other hand redeem the image of the victims’ families damaged by stigmatization. Most times, because the damage has become so deep in terms of the nature of substance taken and duration of abuse, treatment becomes a fruitless venture.

There have been several reported cases of drug-induced death both nationally and internationally. One of such is a reported incident by the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Abia state, about a young boy who took ten tablets of Tramadol because he wanted to outperform his competitors in sports. He did not survive as a result of the overdose. There is a likelihood that that was not the first time he experimented with the drug. Ignorance of the danger inherent in the abuse of substances led him to his untimely grave. Drug-induced death of prominent figures like Whitney Houston, her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and others cannot be over-emphasized.

Ignorance of subtle and deleterious progression of substance use poses a lot of danger to our youths. Some youths experiment with substances to achieve short-term goals oblivious of the long-term mental and physiological destructions that arise thereafter. Just like the incident cited above, victims of substance abuse transit from experimenting to circumstantial use because they feel without the substance they cannot perform, hence the reason to increase the volume because the initial quantity can no longer have the same effect.

Ignorance of destructive effects of drugs often gives victims false belief of being in control of themselves oblivious of how the ‘world’ sees them. The age of initiation of drug intake and abuse according to statistics ranges from 12 to 17 years old. This is the most impressionable and adventurous age range during which adolescent youths try to find their identity. In attempt to define their identity, they face enormous pressure from families, educational environment and unfriendly society. Those who lack the capacity and strategies to navigate this turbulent tide succumb helplessly to this devastating menace leading to attraction to experiment with substances they believe could calm their nerves, though temporarily.

In light of the above, it becomes imperative for families, religious organizations, NGOs and government institutions to initiate both informal and formal early education of our youths on the long-term damaging effects of substances and the consequences which affect both families and the society at large. Most times parents are not only blamed for not giving quality time to issues that affects their children, they are also blamed for not inculcating good moral values in them. Though they spent most of their time outside home; in school, with friends, it is believed that with proper upbringing, youths would be imbued with the will-power and strategies to resist undue influences of significant others.

Government has made significant inroads in area of tackling drugs supply and demand reduction through the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), but a lot still needs to be done in the area of empowering NGOs to reach the people at the grass root for proper enlightenment in secondary schools and community advocacy.

Individuals who have problems stopping the use and abuse of drugs should not hesitate to seek help before it gets out of control. A stitch in time saves nine.

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