By Dominic Odianose Matthew SAC Dip,OCR
Drug abuse is now a common phenomenon in our society of today that we need not look far to feel it .The effect too is so glaring on users and traffickers that for some it has become a source of livelihood despite international effort to stem the trade while others have become psychological dependent on it such that it has become a part of their lives.
The history of drug abuse is as old as mankind existence but it only gained prominence lately when the impact was becoming a social menace.
Recent statistics have shown that over 60 percent of youths are involved in drug abuse despite efforts to discourage them from taking hard drugs including secondary school and university students.
Again it has been reported that the commonest of hard drugs abused is Marijuana or Cannabis popularly called “Igbo” or “weed” in local parlance in Nigeria because it is cheap to grow and easy to get anywhere unlike Cocaine or Heroin that are commonly abused by those in higher class of the society
Many youths graduate from smoking cigarettes into taking Indian hemp. And this habit is quickly cultivated due to association with peers who take it.
People who take Indian hemp are actually referred to as “AREA BOYS” in local language and they become tools in the hand of politicians especially during political campaign rallies. They use them as thugs to terrorise their opponents and compel others into joining their political parties while others use them to settle different type of scores. Drug abuse normally results to inappropriate behaviour among abusers and addict.
There is no doubt that abuse of substance among the youths particularly in Nigeria has continued unabated thereby creating a social problem for both users and the society because they have now become a burden to the state and their family
Research have shown that when young people indulge in using hard substance such as Indian Hemp it interferes with their learning by impairing their thinking faculty which means they will no longer remember whatever they have learned. It can also change their sense of time, reduce concentration, distorts coordination heavily. And long time dependence on this substance can affect productive activities and relationships thereby referred to as psychological dependence.
Although smoking of Indian hemp has been traced to causing Lung Cancer, respiratory problems and early death in young people yet young people still indulge in it. This is why consistent effort must be stepped up by all stakeholders to apply preventive initiatives that will discourage youths from getting addicted to drugs.
The youths as we know are very vulnerable set of people who are easily influenced by peer- group activities and are prone to risky behaviour.
Factors that contribute to Youth drug abuse.
Influence of peer group activities
Anxiety and depression
Promise of false security
Breakdown of family values
Low parental care, affection and guidance
PROBLEMS WITH ERADICATING DRUG ABUSE AMONG YOUTHS IN NIGERIA
Lack of proper implementation of policies
Prevalence of poverty among our youths
Protection of traffickers by those in power
Poor enlightenment programmes
Lack of social welfare policies for unemployed youths
Lack of comprehensive data on drug traffickers and abusers
Inadequate data on youths
High level of unemployment
Non existence of a comprehensive rehabilitation programme for drug addicts
Inadequate funding of preventative initiatives
Glorification of celebrities who use drugs
RELEVANT LAWS AGAINST DRUG ABUSE IN NIGERIA
In the Nigeria federal constitution of 1999, the law against drug users and traffickers such as Cocaine and other forms of hard drugs is severe because it sometimes carries heavy penalty such as death penalty except for Indian hemp that is treated with leniency. Nigeria is also a signatory to the International Drug Control Convention.
PRACTICAL INITIATIVES TO CURB ABUSE AMONG YOUTHS
- Constant education and consistent enlightenment against the trade
- Provision of rehabilitative programmes for addicts
- Creation of more skill acquisition centres for youths
- Availability of treatment drugs
- Family counselling for Addicts family
- Increased Training of personnel
- Adequate funding of preventive initiatives
- Sporting and outdoor activities should be encouraged through the provision of more sports centres in every local community.
- Legal provision to make drug addicts under rehabilitation enjoy certain social benefits should be created.
- Creation of more employment opportunities for our youths.
- Involving the youths in the decision making process.
- Establishment of Anti-drug Abuse clubs in secondary schools, colleges and universities.
Statistics of respondents
Respondents by age distribution
AGE BRACKET NO OF RESPONDENTS
40 & above 6
Total = 34
OB: From the above it is clear majority of users of hard drugs who are youths fall within the age bracket of 25-35yrs when put together who primarily at this age are either independent or already studying in higher institutions, while some may have also graduated. This implies they are not necessarily under their parents thus they can be said to independent. Respondents between 18 and 24 years are low not necessarily because attempt was not made to distribute questionnaire across age brackets but because at that age in Nigeria most of them are still under their parents surveillance and are not totally independent.
Distribution by substance abused
Substance No of respondents
Indian Hemp/Marijuana 12
OB: From the above, it can be deduced that the most commonly abuse drug is Marijuana and alcohol with the highest percentage of abusers. And some abuse both substances at the same time. However, respondents were low among those taking cocaine and Heroin partly because they are very expensive to buy so only those in very good income bracket are found using them.
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND OF RESPONDENTS
QUALIFICATION NO OF RESPONDENTS
University Degree 18
Secondary Certificate 6
Primary school leavers 1
School Drop outs 5
Vocational school 4
OB: From the above, we can establish that most of the youths who indulge in hard drugs are either semi-graduates or aspiring to be graduates. Therefore we can say they are educated to understand the danger in the use of substance.
Hi: There exist a significant relationship between the age bracket and those involved in drug abuse
Ho: There doesn’t exist any significant relationship between age and those involved in drug abuse
ANALYSIS OF QUESTIONAIRES BY RESPONDENTS
The answers to the research questions posed to the respondents are hereby presented from the empirical data collected as follows;
Drug Abuse is dangerous to health- The majority agrees that drug abuse is dangerous to health except 2 respondents who out rightly disagreed i.e.4% of the population. We can then say that is an insignificant figure from the number of respondents.
Drugs intake is a drain on one’s purse- 24% agrees that it is a drain on one’s finances while 20% disagrees that it is a drain on one’s pocket and the remaining are neutral.
Drug Abuse can lead and encourage social vices among youths- 36% believes and agrees that consumption can lead youths to indulging in social vices while 20% are neutral but 8% disagrees.
Youths should not indulge in hard drugs- 60% believes and agrees totally that youths should not take or abuse hard drugs while only 4% disagrees and the rest are neutral.
Hard Drugs can result to mental illness and depression-40% agrees that use of hard drugs can lead to mental illness and cause depression but 8% disagrees while others are neutral.
Hard drugs can lead to loss of identity- About 40% of respondents agree that it does but 4% disagree while the others are neutral;
Drug Abuse among youths can lead to early/premature death among youths- About 30% disagrees that consumption of hard drugs can lead to early death among youths while 20% agrees it can cause premature deaths and others were neutral.
The use of hard drugs like marijuana should be completely banned or controlled-About 50 % of respondents submit that the use of marijuana should be legalized and controlled while only 16% agrees it should be banned completely.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
This study was an attempt to investigate into the effect of drug abuse on youths from the Nigerian perspective. There is no doubt the effect is enormous as the research itself reveals. The research has made an attempt to proffer solutions to questions agitating the mind of various professionals involved with young people particularly youths who abuse and use hard drugs.
In order to find answers to these various puzzles, questionnaire were designed and distributed among youths of a voluntary youth organisation drawn from Ipaja, a sub urban area in Lagos state, Nigeria. And the results are analysed based on raw data taken. Although 50 questionnaires were distributed but only 34 respondents returned their answers during the period which amounts to 66.5%.
On the issue of how knowledgeable these youths are about the danger using hard drugs pose to their health, it is clear from the answers given by respondents that they are conscious of the danger and they feel strongly youths should not be taking these substances except they just don’t consider the risk that serious to prevent them from still indulging in the use of such substance.
In this vein therefore, governments and more Non-governmental organizations must intensify the campaign particularly for those teenagers who are yet to be bugged by the habit and who may be lured into trafficking these drugs in future by drug peddlers
Also, international donors should increase funding to African governments to increase their capacity to track these traffickers and empower youths through entrepreneurial initiatives
However on the issue of whether marijuana should be completely banned, unfortunately the majority of respondents disagree and desire to see it legalized or controlled in some form. Although granted this may not be a perfect reflection of the majority of youths everywhere but at least it goes a long way to give us an insight into the feelings and perception of the youths on the control of this substance use so legislators and those responsible for making these laws should be conscious of this.
On a final note, it suffice to say that we cannot completely eradicate youths involvement in drugs if going by their belief that it should not be banned is anything to go by, but we can at best reduce the rate at which these innocent young people abuse these substances and make the trade difficult for new entrants. Moreover, all hands must be on deck if the war against youth involvement in hard drugs must be won now or in the future.
This research was first published in May 2009.