By Rev. Fr. Dr. Gerald Njoku
Recently, our news platforms both conventional and social media have been inundated with news of drug abuse and depression, with its atrocious effects on our youths. The reported case of four students that died in a private hostel at the Federal University of Technology (FUTO) Owerri after taking drugs substances is still fresh in our minds. Although, police are said to be investigating the matter, the incident leaves unfortunate and sad memories in our minds.
Drug abuse, is a patterned use of a drug in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods which are harmful to themselves or others. Whenever drugs, which are chemical substances, are used in manners that are not consistent with the prescribed standard, then abuse or misuse set in. The danger, however, is that drugs, in performing their roles in the body tend to alter the physiological pattern of behavior of the system and if the exposure is prolonged, can lead to physical, psychological and physiological damage. Abuse of drug can lead to drug addiction and dependence, depression and suicide.
On the other hand, depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how one feels, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. A depressed person may have trouble doing normal day to day activities, and sometimes may feel as if life isn’t worth living. But what can really make one think along that line, even when the word of God has said that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. The number of recent suicides and suicides attempts by youths as a result of failed expectations is a pointer to the magnitude of the challenge on our hands.
Records show about 40 per cent of Nigerian youths are involved in one form of drug abuse or the other, a practice stakeholders say fuel armed robbery, killing, kidnapping, raping, depression and eventual suicide, among others.
Anyone can become a drug abuser, and current information indicates that any person irrespective of class or gender can have drug abuse problems. It should be noted that drug abuse is not a character flaw but rather it is a medical condition that has developed over the time. There is no established fact that drug abuse runs in the family. However, there are theories (Personality, Learning, Biological or genetic and Social cultural), which tend to explain the predisposing factors.
Apart from these theories, the causes of drug abuse, according to many sources, can be linked with factors including experimental curiosity, peer influence, parental influence, socio-economic conditions, extra energy requirements by youths engaged in hard prolonged labour at early ages, drug availability (ease of access) and the pain of withdrawal (withdrawal syndrome) which motivates further abuse.
One feels heartbroken to see youths indulging in such dream-killing practices. While intake of alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and cigarette were commonly known by Nigerian parents and the society, it is becoming increasingly difficult to monitor wards and youths in the society because of the unconventional drug use. Majority of our youths now use tramadol, codeine, rohypnol, skunk, and certain substances which are somewhat difficult for the average parent to categorise as drugs. Most of our prescription drugs are now easy for youths and other persons involved in the trade to purchase.
But what is more worrisome now is that our youths have moved from the bizarre to the ridiculous. You find some of our youths packing dirts from the gutter and sniffing it, believing it would make them high. Some will wake up in the morning, go to latrines and put their noses down to sniff the smell from it until they feel they are high on it. Others inhale methylated spirits, nail polish remover, among others. These are scary and ridiculous practices that must make well-meaning Nigerians, and the society in general rise up against it, as the practice is gaining notoriety among many youths in the country.
The consequences of drug abuse are varied and devastating for the individuals involved, the family, nation and the international community. There are medical problems associated with drug abuse, which include mental disorder, liver cirrhosis, lethargy, irritability, cardio-vascular disorders, etc. The social consequences include, school dropout, cultism, violence, armed robbery, lawlessness, cultural disorientation, rape, suicide, assassinations, loss of productivity, etc. The cost to the society is indeed humongous.
To combat this resurgent menace, a multi-dimensional approach is recommended which will involve the Family, Community and Religious groups, and Government. Parents should create enough time to attend to the needs of their children and guide them properly to adulthood. When you notice your child is drinking a particular soft drink for long, there is need to monitor him or her to know if there is an external substance in such drink.
Similarly, community and religious leaders should take active part in resolving the crisis at hand and help to prevent further occurrences through advocacies and action, as well as keep the family unit intact.
Effective communications among the stakeholders in the education of these youths is also necessary in this regard. For example, the Catholic Church in Owerri Archdiocese through the office of Justice, Development, Peace and Caritas Commission(JDPC), with the core mandate to apply the value of the gospel to the problems of the society, is engaging on sensitization of youths on the dangers of drug abuse, depression and other sundry vices, as well as training youths in skill acquisition programs, among others.
Government should urgently empower the relevant agencies with adequate funding to discharge their duties appropriately and the agencies made to be alive to their responsibilities. Government must ensure that the drug distribution system is sanitized and access to dangerous drugs is severely restricted. Everybody involved in the handling of drugs must be brought under regulatory control.
Furthermore, the economy must be stimulated to provide jobs for the unemployed and underemployed. An alternative means of engagement, especially through sports must be provided to take the youths out of the street. Everybody must be involved in the efforts to educate the youths and limit the availability of drugs to professionals only.
Drug abuse is a self-destructive indulgence that leads to significant problems that includes depression. It has suddenly assumed an alarming proportion among youths in Nigeria which is evident in the number of crimes and suicides in the country. It could get worse if care is not taken. We must do something now to stem the tide before it brings calamity on our society.
Originally Published online at THE LEADER Newspaper