It is disturbing that drug abuse has infiltrated primary schools, and this trend should catch the attention of parents, school officials, advocacy groups and law enforcement agencies in re-directing their educational and enforcement efforts as we cannot continue to treat the matter with levity. The United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime launched the 2012 edition of the Drug Report in Abuja on June the 27th and according to the report, around 230 million people or five (5) per cent of the world’s population (aged 15 to 64) are estimated to have used an illicit drug at least once in 2010. In West Africa, including Nigeria, cannabis is said to be the most abused drug. Although the rate of abuse among children in Nigeria is not at the moment statistically clear, but young people commonly abuse drugs(esp. Cannabis, Cocaine, heroin amongst others) in such big cities as Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja.
“Proliferation of illicit drugs used to be a major headache mainly for the Western nations. A report in the Daily Mail of London in July 2008, for instance, noted that 88 per cent of pupils in the United Kingdom would have drunk alcohol, tried drugs or smoked by the age of 15. Similarly, the United States based National Institute on Drug Abuse reported recently that 7.2 per cent of 8th graders, 17.6 per cent of 10th graders and 22.6 per cent of 12th graders used marijuana in a particular month in 2011” – (Punchonline.com)
As credited to Ms. Mariam Sissoko (UNODC Country Representative in Nigeria), recently said that Nigeria stood the risk of becoming a hub for methamphetamine smuggling as most of the stimulants intercepted in East Asia allegedly originated from West Africa. Between July 2011 and February 2012, two clandestine laboratories meant for the production of methamphetamine were reportedly discovered in Lagos by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.
The UNODC estimates that, globally, there were between 99,000 and 253,000 deaths arising from illicit drug use in 2010.
Why do young people use drugs?
People use drugs for many different reasons. Typically adolescence is a time of experimentation. Young people may take drugs as they struggle to establish their independence in a society where alcohol and other drugs are associated with being an adult.
Other reasons that young people may use alcohol and other drugs include:
Acceptance by peers and false imaging.
social influences (peer pressure)
enjoying the feeling – for example, the effects of ecstasy include increased energy and confidence
risk taking and rebellion can be exciting, especially when it involves parental disapproval and illegal substances
Escapism – alcohol and other drugs may be used as a means of avoiding problems associated with family life, school or work frustrations, friendship and relationship difficulties, low self esteem and/or depression. These problems should be addressed as early as possible to prevent any related drug use from escalating.
How many young people use alcohol and other drugs?
Although many young people will experiment with alcohol and other drugs (legal or illegal) at some stage, most will not go on to experience problems.
Substance abuse, a public health and social problem has gradually become a cause for concern in Africa and indeed in Nigeria. In Nigeria, the consumption of illegal drugs and the harmful use of other psychoactive substances such as alcohol, pharmaceutical drugs, inhalants and solvents have increased at an alarming rate over the years. Available report indicates that Nigeria is currently the highest consumer of cannabis and amphetamine in Africa (1). An analysis of the World Drug reports over a ten – year period (2001-2011) Showed that the estimated annual prevalence of cannabis consumption among persons aged 15 to 65 years increased from about 8.7% to 14.3%; while that of amphetamine consumption increased from 1.2% to 1.4% (2; 1), alarming?. The same trend was also reported for cocaine and opiates with annual prevalence of consumption rising from 1.0% and 0.3% respectively to 0.7% for both substances (2; 1)
What are the risks?
Although most young people who experiment with alcohol and other drugs don’t experience major issues, drug use can cause many and varied problems. Using legal or illegal drugs may not only affect the young people themselves, but also friends, family and others around them.
The short term risks of alcohol and other drug use include risk of injury, loss of possessions, relationship problems, time away from school or work, and perhaps even trouble with the law. The longer term risks include the risk of developmental problems, dependence, and chronic health problems.
The risks associated with drinking can be far greater for young people than for adults, because they are still developing, both physically and emotionally. This means that drinking is more likely to cause physical, mental health and social problems for them. Furthermore, as our brains are still developing until our mid-20s, heavy drinking before this age is likely to cause problems with brain development, and can lead to difficulties with memory and learning.
Mental health issues associated with drug use can range from problems that affect a person’s self-esteem, confidence and happiness through to major psychoses. There is evidence that regular use of some drugs (such as cannabis), especially if regular, heavy and commencing at a young age, increases the likelihood of mental health problems occurring in people who have a personal or family history of mental illness.