By Melody Okereke
There is no debate about the fact that drug abuse and illicit trafficking is a worldwide problem that has a far-reaching consequence because it is accompanied by crime, social vices, corruption, and terrorism.
Even without statistics, we can observe it on the streets that Nigeria has one of the highest problems of drug abuse. Sadly enough, another issue accelerating this menace of drug abuse is the production and sale of illicit drugs in the country.
Due to the invention of new technologies, the production of these drugs has increased which makes them become very cheap and readily affordable. In the light of this, it is very important that we raise awareness and public consciousness of the major problems that illicit drugs present to the society and at the same time, remind youths and adults of the huge importance of living a drug-free life.
According to the United Nations Office for Drug and Crime, “Drug trafficking is a global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws”. Among the prominent drugs being trafficked are Cannabis, Heroin, Opium, Cocaine, etc.
This illicit trade worth billions of dollars is very lucrative for the barons who use every possible means of transport including airplanes, ships, animals, catapults, sandbag, bridges, tunnels and human beings (mules) to move their dangerous wares around the world. These drugs, despite not being cheap are in high demand universally hence the constant supply by the unscrupulous businessmen who traffick them.
Factually, the rate of drug trafficking in Nigeria is increasingly alarming, along with criminal groups using the country as a base to move narcotics to neighbouring regions.
As a consequence of cross-border trafficking, illegal drugs are easily available within the country. A study conducted in 2017 found out that cannabis (locally known as Igbo, Eja, Pot, Weed, Ganja, Hemp, Dope, Mary Jane, Grass, Reefer, Ewe) is the drug with the highest rate of prevalence in Nigeria with 6.6 per cent of respondents having used it in their lifetime.
Though cannabis is the primary drug used in Nigeria, the use of other illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine is on the rise. Surprisingly, the greatest danger of drug abuse and trafficking in Nigeria lies with substances that are not illegal. The abuse of alcohol and over-the-counter (OTC) medications has increased significantly in recent years.
Alcohol is the third most abused substance in Nigeria. In 2015, it was reported that an average of 11.3 litres of alcohol were consumed per person per year in Nigeria.
The second primary type of drug used in Nigeria is opiates. Among the opiates being abused are several prescription drugs such as tramadol and codeine. However, despite the growth or perceived increase in awareness of the rising rate of drug abuse and trafficking in Nigeria, there is very little data to show the extent of the problem.
Studies have shown an increase in the consumption of illegal drugs through data such as arrest records, but capturing the rate of addiction to prescription and over-the-counter medication is much more difficult to ascertain.
Not only is there a lack of addiction reporting, but there is also a lack of treatment. A vast majority of Nigerians live in poverty, and access to treatment for addiction is limited across the country. The consequences of drug abuse have been violence, rape, suicide, poor academic performance, poor health condition, school dropout, etc.
Drug abuse is associated with vices such as cultism, armed robbery, thuggery, etc. and it has created a huge economic burden on the government trying on their part to provide basic amenities and resources for people who are not useful to the society.
Following the release of a BBC documentary on drug abuse in Nigeria, the government has instituted a ban on the import and production of a codeine-containing cough syrup, which will reduce the availability of codeine. Because the cough syrup was unregulated, people could buy it from pharmacies without a prescription, giving them easy access to addictive opiates.
Other methods the government is using to fight against the growth of drug abuse and trafficking include policies and taxes. The Nigerian government has instituted a new “sin” tax, causing tobacco products and alcohol to cost more. Hopefully, an increase in cost will reduce consumption.
Conclusively, the lesson for us to take home that is that the fight against Drug Abuse and Trafficking is a collective effort and all hands must be on deck to achieve this. Although it may not be very easy to achieve, our efforts will be rewarded with a better society and a drug-free Nigeria; it can and will only get better.