By Sola Ogundipe
Worried by the increasing rate of drug abuse in the country, the Christ Against Drug Abuse Ministry, CADAM, an organisation that caters to the treatment and rehabilitation of persons with problematic drug use, under the Redeemed Christian Church of God, has called on the Federal government to ensure a comprehensive review of the war against drug abuse and illicit trafficking in the country.
Making the call in Lagos, the Director-General of CADAM, Dokun Adedeji, who observed that Nigeria has a major drug challenge, urged President Mohammadu Buhari to use his good office to ensure that the ill effects of drug abuse are mitigated among Nigerians particularly the youth.
Speaking ahead of this year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, themed: “Better Knowledge For Better Care”, Adedeji stated emphatically that Nigeria is in an epidemic of drug abuse.
“This reality must have motivated the President to inaugurate the Presidential Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse, PACEDA, a special body led by Gen Buba Marwa in February 2019. To many of us working on the field, it was a welcome development.
“I hope the government of President Buhari who first launched a ‘war’ against drugs many years ago, will rise to the challenge we face today. He started well with the inauguration of PACEDA. Will he demonstrate the political will to go the whole hog and save our youth and nation from this suffocating disease?”
Recalling that Nigeria established the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, and charged it with the responsibility of eliminating the growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, exporting, and trafficking of hard drugs, Adedeji said in view of the intricate realities of today’s drug situation, there is a need to revisit these responsibilities.
He said according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, UNODC, in 2018, the prevalence of any drug use in Nigeria was 14.4 percent corresponding to about 14 million Nigerians aged between 15 and 64.
“The frightening statistics bear out this painful and unfortunate reality. The highest levels of any drug use over the past year were among those aged between 25 and 39 years. With 1 in 5 persons who had used drugs in the past year suffering from drug use disorder. Probably the most disturbing aspect of all these is the fact that a lot of problematic drug users are seeking treatment, but regrettably, these are almost not available.
“It is our considered opinion that there must be a review of this huge responsibility if we want to make headway in our National response to the drug problem. We think that NDLEA can continue with its major drive of prohibiting drug use whilst PACEDA is saddled with the responsibility of drug demand reduction.
“There remains space for mutual cooperation. Our nation needs to work on drug demand reduction activities with eyes on prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, and aftercare.”
According to Adedeji, “That we have a drug problem is not really the challenge but our efforts to handle it. Let me state clearly that the time has come when we must address this problem as a public health issue. We cannot go on criminalising the use of drugs and expect to get any results.
Assuring that all hope is not lost, Adedeji remarked: “Drug use is not a consequence of moral failure nor is it a crime to be punished. We have come to know that drug use disorders are the result of a complex interplay of many factors that are very much out of the control of the affected individual. This condition should not, therefore, be considered as self-acquired or be punished or be stigmatised.
“We must therefore as individuals, organisations, and nation, come together to deal with this common challenge. Let this year as we mark another International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, be the turning point in our common desire to see a drug free society.”