By Evelyn Usman
The International Society of Substance Use Professionals, ISSUP Nigeria Chapter, has expressed worry over plights of drug users who are among COVID-19 patients in isolation centres, raising the alarm that measures put in place to tackle the pandemic could increase the risk for the burden of substance use problems.
The professionals who are charged with the responsibility of prevention and treatment of substance use disorders among Nigerians disclosed that isolation and social distancing could limit access to treatment and aftercare of drug users.
To tackle this challenge, President of ISSUP, Dr. Martin Agwogie, pledged the association’s support to the Federal Government, in providing drug treatment to Substance users who are COVID-19 patients in isolation centres across the country.
He noted that with over 14 million people using different psychoactive substances in the country, the burden of substance use was huge and therefore required concerted efforts to reverse the worsening rate of substance use problems.
He said, “ The COVID-19 pandemic has presented governments around the world with significant challenges to their economy, health administration and specifically prevention and treatment of substance use problems.
READ ALSO: COVID-19 Restrictions: FCTA goes tough on violators, arrests 84 travellers, impounds truck, buses
“Particularly worrisome to us, as an association, is the fact that measures put in place to tackle the pandemic and reverse it, inadvertently increase the risk for the burden of substance use problems because Isolation and physical distancing may limit access to treatment and aftercare, while physical distancing may promote loneliness and lead to relapse
“ Also, lockdowns may increase the number of persons who hitherto had no problems developing substance use problems. Mental health problems may trigger or worsen substance use problems, arising from fears about the uncertainty of global economies and rising job losses, homelessness and insecurity
“ Prevention strategies are difficult to implement and sustain in this pandemic. As a result of the following, ISSUP Nigeria encourages professionals to embrace e-health or tele-health approaches during these times. Clients and support groups should take advantage of the support available online”.
“Government is expected to continue with policy reform and legislative activity that would strengthen substance use prevention and treatment in Nigeria”.
He further advised members of the public to be vigilant and help mitigate risk factors that could expose individuals to substance use during and after the pandemic”
On the part of the association, he said, it would continue to ensure that its members provided ethical and evidence-based treatment strategies in pursuit of holistic care for persons with substance use disorders as well as prevention.