.Aisha Buhari

· As ISSUP declares support WADA

By Evelyn Usman

Nigeria’s First lady, Dr Mrs Aisha Buhari, has called on the need for the nation’s healthcare system to be strengthened in order to respond and provide healthcare services to victims of substance abuse.

Speaking at the 2021 annual general meeting/conference of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals, ISSUP Nigeria, Tuesday, in Abuja, the First lady, urged political leaders as well as celebrities to desist from promoting activities and contents that suggest the abuse of drugs as an acceptable practice, as against the reality that they are unsafe and unhealthy.

Mrs Buhari who was represented by her Special Assistant on African First Ladies Peace Mission, Mrs Mairo Tanko Almakura, said the theme of the conference: ‘Substance Abuse: Re-Awakening Nigerians to its Reality’ was timely as it underscored the importance of recognising and addressing the problem of substance abuse in the country.

She expressed worry at the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use which revealed that the prevalence of drug abuse in Nigeria was about three times the global average.

The report, according to her, further revealed that the majority of drug users who developed drug use disorders, were unable to access medical treatment largely due to stigma and unavailability of treatment facilities.

Lamenting, she said: “ This presents a challenge to Nigeria’s already stressed healthcare system. Thus, while prevention and early detection strategies to curb the incidence of substance abuse is our first line of defence, there is an obvious need to strengthen our healthcare system to proactively respond and provide healthcare services to those in need of treatment.

“In addition, we must also continue to recognise that drug abuse is a public health problem not necessarily a criminal justice problem. Let me also use this opportunity to call on our lawmakers to also recognise that decriminalising drug use while enacting stricter sanctions on drug dealers will go a long way to increase access to treatment for many drug users who need medical attention.

“The increasing cases of drug abuse has always been a source of great concern to me. Drug abuse hurts relationships, families, and communities. No mother will want to see her children suffer from the various health consequences of substance abuse such as HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, addiction, or even untimely death. Every mother will want her children to attain high educational status, secure and keep great jobs as well as overcome financial instability and poverty and live their lives free of violence and crime.

“Similarly, Nigeria cannot afford to keep losing its teeming youth to such a menace and expect the younger generation to provide quality leadership and excel in innovative enterprises that will advance our society for better”.

She therefore called on parents to support and promote the implementation of policies and programs that focused on strengthening strong family values that represent the moral foundation needed to nurture children through proper parental guidance, attending to their needs and guiding them properly to adulthood.

She said, “Irrespective of our economic pursuits, as parents and as community members, we have fundamental roles to play; fathers and mothers must create time and opportunities to take care of their children, communities should take back their responsibilities where every other member is his brothers’ keeper.

“Furthermore, we must continue to create an environment that discourages people from seeing drug abuse as an alternative or as a solution. As stakeholders, we must continue to call for the provision of quality and affordable free education at an early age to at least secondary school level for every child.

“We also must call on our political leaders, key opinion leaders as well as our celebrities to be mindful of the dangers of substance abuse and abstain from promoting activities and contents that suggest the abuse of drugs as an acceptable practice as against the reality that they are unsafe and unhealthy. We must also create the needed environment that promotes productivity and job opportunities in order to effectively engage our young ones and set them on a path towards prosperity.

“It is my understanding that these recommendations are in line with internationally recognised evidence-based drug abuse prevention strategies that focus on reducing risk factors and enhance protective factors to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities”, she stated.

While commending ISSUP’s national President , Martin Agwogie and his team for putting together the event which she said was geared towards creating awareness to the reality and dangers of substance abuse in Nigeria, she called on well –meaning Nigerians to support the campaign against drug abuse and also join to create awareness of the health and socio-economic consequences of substance abuse.

Earlier in his welcome address, the National President, ISSUP Nigeria , Dr. Agwogie, explained that the choice of the theme was another way of sending a strong message that Nigeria was in a crisis of substance use and abuse, which he said was threatening the fabrics of the nation.

He declared ISSUP’s support for the recent launch of War Against Drug Abuse WADA by President Muhamadu Buhari. The declaration, according to him, “ is based on our understanding that the mandate of WADA is not a declaration of war against persons who use drugs but a collective resolve to frontally address the issue of substance use and abuse in our dear nation. A clarion call to everyone to join the crusade to wage war against the impending dangers of substance abuse and a call to promote a culture of substance use prevention through family engagement, community coalitions and stakeholders’ collaboration.

“In view of this, we have fully mobilized the state branches and students’ wing of ISSUP Nigeria Chapter to collaborate with NDLEA and other stakeholders to drive this initiative at the state and community levels and across higher institutions of learning in Nigeria. This is not the time to sit on the fence. We must all take our destiny and the future of this nation in our hands”.

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