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New Trends In Drug Abuse: ‘No more marijuana, we get high on new weeds’

It is no longer news that the figures of Nigerians abusing drugs and substances have continued to increase. According to a report from the National Drug Survey Use, no fewer than 14.4 million people between 15 and 64 years use drugs outside prescription. The result of NOI Poll also showed that 9 in 10 Nigerians believe the highest abusers of drugs and substance are teenagers and young adults aged between 15 and 29. Another result shows that the age of use has gone down to seven years to include primary school children. Meanwhile, latest findings show new trends in drug and substance abuse among these age groups. Sunday Vanguard reports that while government is working to stem the tide of potent mixtures of several drugs at the high risk of fatal overdose, more youths have resorted to the use of household products like glue, petrol, spray, sewage and urine as inhalants. Others use natural green leaves:

Are you a parent? Do you monitor what your children do with some household products you store in the house? If you don’t, then think twice. 32-year-old Emeka Onuh (not real name) did not just start using drugs. If he had passed university matriculation examination after four attempts, he would have graduated.

He had been into drugs for 10 years and addicted to it. His story started after he attempted university matriculation examination four times without success. For some people, failure is an opportunity to work harder but for some, just like Emeka, it is the beginning and the end. Emeka’s mates who left secondary school at the same time with him had finished university while he continued to nurse his failure and refused to move on with life.

His journey into drugs began with a stick of cigarette and a small bottle of brandy right inside his room.

He gradually moved to other drugs like Indian hemp, also known as marijuana, and, from there, to different kinds of substances including a mixture of codeine, rohypnol, cannabis and tramadol.

Anytime he didn’t have money or someone to buy for him, he would sniff the sewage or glue and petrol.

Being the first child of a family of three, his parents, particularly his mother, were worried.

The mother, Mrs. Nkiruka Onuh (not real name), decided to take her son’s case to the Church.

In the midst of the problem, however, Emeka’s father died of untreated high blood pressure.

The mother, a widow, apparently out of ignorance, continued to think that his son’s predicament was spiritual.

But after his husband’s death, she became more concerned and began to probe into the problem.

It was then she discovered it was as a result of a lifestyle which had culminated into a medical problem.

A year later, his mother decided to relocate from Lagos to their hometown in Imo State as part of her own rehabilitation strategy for her son.

Little did she know that her decision will cause more harm than good. Before they left Lagos for the village, Nkiruka was of the opinion that drug abuse only happens in cities but she was wrong after all, as Emeka’s addiction grew from bad to worse.

The relocation merely succeeded in depriving the son of getting his usual brands.

In the village, Emeka ended up with a set of new friends who introduced him to new means of getting ‘high’ – by simply cooking green leaves from a particular plant which many have testified to be more powerful than marijuana.

The NOI Poll found that most abused substance in Nigeria was marijuana but the discovery of other common natural green leaves like a leaf commonly known among youths in some parts of Imo State as Obiri dike aka n’ala or anu–efi (cow meat or the leaf that knocks out a brave man) may soon top the chart.

New trends

Today, there are new trends in drug and substance abuse among young people.

According to Emeka’s mother, his son’s life has gone from bad to worse as, by her calculation, these leaves are more deadly than the regular substances.

“For two days sometimes I would not see him even when we lived in the same house. But one day, I walked into his room and saw my son lying as if he was dead but saliva coming out of his mouth”, she narrated.

“I was afraid. I called in neighbours. All efforts to wake him up did not work.

“But one of his friends came and told us he (Emeka) took anuefi popularly known as obimere dike aka n’ala among the youths. I was taken aback by the news”.

Sunday Vanguard learnt that many young people into drugs believe that some of these natural products act faster and better than the popular tramadol and codeine in cough syrups among others.

Throwing more light into the new ways youths abuse drugs and get high, 28-year-old Jeremiah Aham said there are several simple new ways to get high.

“For instance, the new leaves are prepared the way you prepare tea bags. The leaves are cooked with water and when the color of the water changes like the normal tea, it is served. But minutes after taking it, the effect will start manifesting. Depending on the quantity you took, it can be deadly. It can cause saliva to drip from the mouth uncontrollably. If taken in large quantity, it can cause people to sleep for days and even die.

“Many parents will be shocked if they get to know what youths are using as substance abuse and addiction because many are household products that are readily available. There are dozens of dangerous substances being used by youths.

“Some are getting high with spices used in baking; you can also ingest and smoke large quantities of nutmeg. There are also digital drugs, audio files that are proven to alter the brainwaves and disrupt the mental state of listeners, essentially producing the same effects as narcotics.

“Most of these audios are on the internet. So when you see some young people glued to the internet, some of them are also involved. Some also use aerosol spray as a substance to get high and that can last anywhere from seconds to a few minutes, but it is dangerous if taken in large doses”.

Lamenting the new trend in substance and drug addiction which he confirmed may be difficult to monitor, the Chairman of Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy, NAPHARM, Drug & Substance Abuse Committee, Dr Lolu Ojo, explained that drug and substance use is a self-destructive indulgence that leads to significant problems and distress.

“It has suddenly assumed an alarming proportion among youths in Nigeria and could get worse if care is not taken. We must do something to stem the tide before it brings calamity on our society.”

According to Ojo, the 2018 report carried out by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse (CRISA), and funded by the European Union, reveals that Nigeria has 10.6 million users of cannabis; 4.6 million users of pharmaceutical opioids, 238,000 amphetamine users, and one out of every five users of drugs is already dependent. It also finds that one out of every four drug users is a woman.

Ojo warned that the country should be aware of what he described as ‘iceberg phenomenon’ as the situation may be more than the official estimates from the 2018 survey that states that revealed that 14.4 per cent or 14.4 million Nigerians aged between 15 and 64 years were drug users.

“There may not be one of the nation’s tertiary educational institutions or primary /secondary that is free of drug users. We will be deceiving ourselves to think that the situation is limited to geography or age”, he said.

“There is practically no major city in Nigeria that does not have hideouts or joints or clubs or ram-shackles where the young ones gather to buy or use drugs of different descriptions to feel good”.

Insisting that drug abuse was not a character flaw, he said it is rather a medical condition that has developed over time.

“If the menace of drug abuse is not checked, it will impair all efforts to put the nation on a higher political and economic pedestal”, Ojo said.

“There is practically no major city in Nigeria that does not have hideouts or joints or clubs or ram-shackles where the young ones gather to buy or use drugs of different descriptions to feel good”.

To the President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Sam Ohuabunwa, the effect of substance abuse is enormous and is affecting the level of productivity which, in turn, affects national effort to grow the economy.

Also contributing, the immediate past President of PSN, Ahmed Yakassai, in a report tagged: ‘Tackling the Menace of Drug Abuse in Nigeria: A Disruptive Innovative Approach’, traced the rising trend in Nigeria to the dysfunctional family system in which parents no longer pay attention to their children, particularly at the onset of drug abuse, poverty, unemployment, ignorance among others.

He said the impact of drug abuse is felt most in the health and well being of the abuser as estimated 200,000 drug injected related deaths may occur in a year based on the current population of injecting drug users which is approximately 5.3 million according to United Nations.

Stating that deaths from drug abuse have become major sources of concern, he said the impact of drug abuse is also felt more by the family and the community.

“Most people who abuse drugs find it difficult to be in school. Studies have shown that many crimes are perpetrated under the influence of the drug. Drug problems have a costly impact on the workplace and the community”, he said.

He said as the menace of drug abuse among Nigerian youths has been shown to be multifaceted both in causes and effects and no one or institution is spared with the consequences of the ugly fast-spreading evolving trend, it is no doubt cancerous in the nation and needs all hands on deck to arrest the fuelling factors.

However, as government struggles to curb the menace and given the current substance or drug abuse trends, it would be best to monitor the household products you keep in your home and perhaps even teach your teenagers why they might be dangerous.

Call helpline for more information about the effects of drug abuse and options for drug abuse treatment.

NDLEA reacts

Commenting on the situation, the Head Public Affairs Officer, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Mr. Jonah Achema, admitted that there has been an increase in the use of weeds and substances outside of the popular ones.

Achema said laws specify that anything that can act as a stimulant just like cocaine is also grouped as an illicit drug.

“Therefore anyone found abusing them will be treated the same way those abusing opioids, drugs and other substances are treated”, he said.

“They no longer buy some of these things. They pick them there are there; some harvest them in the bushes. All we are saying that it is a public health problem that should be combated. We have programmes we are carrying out to ensure we reduce the usage of some of these products.

“In such cases, if it warrants arrest or rehabilitation, we do that. But it does not matter what the name is as long as it is a stimulant. The illicit drug is a public health issue and it has been there. We have been creating more awareness of the dangers of these substances and the need for the youths to keep off from them. According to the law, Illicit drugs are substances that stimulate such as cocaine or amphetamines) or inhibit (such as heroin or sedative-hypnotics) the central nervous system or cause hallucinogenic effects such as marijuana or LSD. So anything that does that is controlled by the agency.

“We are working in different communities creating awareness and that is why people are hearing about some of these new trends. “They have been there but the growing awareness is what is bringing them up. Government is seriously doing something about it”.

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