•‘Punishment’ harmful, can drive victims underground, psychiatrist warns

By Nnamdi Ojiego

A psychiatrist, Dr. Julie Ogwunga, has said that flogging drug addicts was not the best solution to the menace of substance abuse, warning that the measure was harmful and dangerous, and could drive victims underground.

Ogwunga was reacting to reports of menace of substance abuse, especially, methamphetamine also known as Mkpuru Mmiri, and extreme measures some communities in the South-East have adopted to combat the ugly trend.

Sunday Vanguard had reported that the activities of drugs addicts and dealers have become so damaging that town unions and youths associations are taking drastic measures including what is now known as ‘Cane Deliverance’, to stamp out the menace from their communities.

‘Cane Deliverance’ is a situation where drug abusers and peddlers are tied to a tree or pole at a public square and flogged mercilessly like animals to dissuade them from the act.

Ogwunga, who is the Acting Director, Department of Health Services, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Imo State, noted that the appropriate treatment modalities involve combination of medications for detoxification and psychotherapy.

“Medications are also used to treat any accompanying mental illness. Such people should be taken to see a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist. Also family and friends should be supportive during the treatment processes, so as to enable the person reintegrate into the society”, she explained.

Speaking further, the psychiatrist said: “There are different types of methamphetamine such as Ice (Mkpuru mmiri), Base and Speed. They differ in their potency. Ice can be smoked or inhaled, swallowed, snorted and injected.

“As a central nervous system stimulant, it produces a strong euphoria (a high feeling) or elation. It increases energy, and makes the user highly confident of himself/herself.

“The person will also become talkative, aggressive and sexually aroused. It produces alertness and poor sleep, reduces appetite and weight loss. It causes poor concentration and poor memory.

“Physically, methamphetamine can cause dehydration, increased heart rate and blood pressure. It can predispose to stroke, lung and liver damage, as well as respiratory issues. These can easily lead to death.”

Causes

On the causes of drug abuse, Ogwunga stated: “Drug addiction or abuse is due to a combination of biological, psychological and social issues. One of the biological causes is genetics.

“When one or both parents have the genes, then it is most likely that the children will become addicted.

“Other biological factors include problems with brain chemicals like neurotransmitters, etc.

“Also, problems with hormones like testosterone, cortisol, thyroid hormones, etc. can come into play. Even having trauma to the brain by any means is a risk factor”.

She added that psychological and social problem that are risk factors to drug addiction include Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as physical, psychological abuse and neglect, as well as child sexual abuse.

“Other forms of ACEs, according to her, include child witnessing parental separation, divorce and death, as well as abuse of the mother.

READ ALSO: Mkpuru Mmiri: Youths kill man found with drug in Imo

“Even a child witnessing community violence such as kidnapping, insurgencies, farmers/herders clashes, etc., are risk factors for substance abuse at an early age or later in life.

“Other psychological and social risk factors to substance abuse include poor parenting practices, intimate partner violence, loss of job, loved one, or even academic failure.

“Social isolation and other stressors are risk factors.

“Peer pressure, poverty, unemployment or under employment and lack of social amenities, are also risk factors. The ease of availability of the substance of abuse is a risk factor.

“The presence of a mental illness can predispose to the abuse of a substance, as self medication.

Stemming tide

The Director, however, suggested that the tide could be stemmed even as it requires a collective method as it is everybody’s business.

“Parents have a big role to play in this matter, knowing that the average age for drug addiction in this country is 19 years”, she stressed.

“So, they must have a stable home, be able to practice good parenting, and spend good quality time with their children.

“They must also have good knowledge of the substances of abuse and start early to educate their children on this matter.

“Parents must be good role models and must be aware of their children’s daily activities, as well as know who their friends are.

“The parents must ensure that their children make friends with children who are drug free.

“And parents must teach their children how to say ‘No’ when under pressure.

“Engaging the children in extracurricular activities like music, sports, etc. and getting them involved in home chores are also good preventive methods, and getting the child involved in religious activities is a protective factor.

“Furthermore, teachers also have a big role to play, knowing that children spend a good enough time in school.

“The teachers should also educate the children on issues of drug abuse and addiction and be good role models.

“Thus every school must have a school counselor to whom the children can reach out in times of stress and who will be able to refer the children who have big challenges.

“Bullying at schools must be stopped by the authorities.

“Again, the individual, be it a child or an adult, must have a good knowledge of substances of abuse.

“They must avoid peer pressure and be ready to say ‘No’ to any form of pressure, and walk away.

“The person should get involved in religious activities and spirituality. Getting busy at school or work are good preventive measures.

“And the individual should seek social support from trusted friends or relatives when stressors arise. Medical assistance should be sought when overwhelmed.

“Government, on the other hand, must provide good social amenities like good electricity and water, good roads, schools, hospitals, and affordable housing.

“Providing employment opportunities and reducing poverty are also other important preventive measures.

“Crime reduction and stopping insurgencies are other areas the government can improve on.

“Government should strive in all possible ways to plug all the avenues the substances are being imported into the country and restrict or break their supply chain”.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.