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Health Experts Raise Alarm on Drug Abuse

Sequel upon this perturbing state of affairs, the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy in collaboration with the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), NAFDAC, the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) and numerous other industry and professional stakeholders, and the media kick-started a series of events in a bid to mitigate and ultimately curb the unabated surge in Drug and Substance Abuse in Nigeria.

In a press conference held recently at Pharmacy House – Lagos, pharmacy experts and representatives of key regulatory agencies of government noted that the illegal drug business in the country continues to boom just because some people out there are users who are constantly dependent on the drug merchants. These are the drug addicts who fuel the sales because they will go to every length to get their supplies. From general observation it has become common knowledge that drug addicts will sell properties or steal just to ensure they get the money to pay for the drugs.

According to Dr. Lolu Ojo, former chairman, National Association of Industrial Pharmacists (NAIP) and fellow of the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy, statistics show that “about 14.4 % of the population are drug users,” and this is a huge number. Experts talk of an age bracket of between 15 and 65 year olds that are drug users or addicts. Furthermore, it is discovered that “25 percent of all drug users in Nigeria are women,” Lolu Ojo added – which makes the situation even more alarming as women are the ones who get to carry pregnancies and raise children.

Very disturbing too according to experts, is the confirmed reports that the age of abuse has even gone down to 7 years or less, implying that today, even some kids in our primary schools are also abusing and misusing drugs and getting hooked on them. For these reasons, experts are of the same opinion that there is an urgent need for everyone “to shout it on the rooftops.”

The situation obviously has gotten to an emergency level, that is to say we actually have an epidemic of some sort on our hands because especially the young people out there have graduated from just abusing the very familiar drugs, and have in fact also invented other means of getting high. They now sniff gutters, soakaway, glue, pit latrines, fire extinguishers and lizard excreters! Experts and every stakeholder are therefore called upon to have all hands on deck in a collaborative effort to try and curb this fast ravaging social malaise.

Policy makers, schools and parents/ guardians are at this time challenged with this onerous task confronting us all if we are to make any meaningful impact. The fact that stares us in the face is that NAFDAC cannot do it alone; neither can PSN, PCN nor the customs do it on their own.

What is needed is a concerted effort of all key stakeholders which goes beyond control of illegal drug trade or distribution as well as substance abuse. But the question stakeholders are asking is: How can anyone control the use of glues and the popular insecticide, sniper which is among the latest in abused substances by our youths? Or, how on earth can anyone begin to control or regulate the use of pit toilets, fire extinguishers, etc.?

The president of the pharmaceutical society of Nigeria (PSN), Pharm. (Mazi) Sam Ohuabunwa insists that, “there is a trigger to all this, and we must draw attention to that trigger.” Experts and health watchers are of the opinion that the current spate of suicides among the youths especially, might after all have a link with drug or substance abuse, which is to say that the economy cannot be the sole reason for this troubling social quagmire.

In proffering solutions, Ohuabunwa noted that both PSN and NAFDAC are poorly resourced and so have become hamstrung in carrying out their statutory functions. He therefore suggested that our drug regulatory authorities be strengthened in addition to giving the prevailing laws stronger teeth. While corroborating the points so far made, Lolu Ojo challenged every stakeholder to go into the streets and look into the eyes of some of the boys there. “Many of them have dilated pupils. This means they have been abusing one kind of drug or the other, “he said.

Ohuabunwa charged the President and Commander-In-Chief to sign into law the pending Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria Bill which according to him, aims to empower the PCN to effectively take greater control of sales and distribution of medicines so that they do not get into the wrong hands.

By Morgan Nwanguma

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