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Looming Danger: Substance Abuse Crisis Threatens Nigeria’s Future-Experts

Daud Olatunji

The former provost and medical director of Neuropsychiatric Hospital,Aro, Abeokuta, Dr. Mrs. Taiwo Adamson and a consultant psychiatrist from the Neuro Psychiatric Hospital Aro, Abeokuta, have  sounded the alarm on the impending dangers of substance abuse in Nigeria. 

The experts  expressed deep concern about the escalating rate of substance use, particularly among the youth.

They spoke on Wednesday, during the 3rd edition of Dr. Taiwo Adamson annual debate and mental wellness, organised by the Association of Resident Doctors, Neuropsychiatric Hospital,Aro,Abeokuta.

Adamson,a renowned consultant psychiatrist,retired 14 years ago,now runs a private psychiatric hospital raised the alarm, saying, “what is worrying to me because I have a private hospital where I manage, and 8 out of 10 patients we admit are related to drug use. It’s not because of psychiatric illness; it’s because of addictive disorders in these individuals.”

Dr. Adamson highlighted a disturbing evolution in the drug landscape, citing the synthesis of drugs like Indian hemp in laboratories. “Before, we knew that Indian hemp came from plants, either from the leaves, stem, or seeds, depending. 

“But now, they go to the laboratory and synthesize Indian hemp, and that is what our boys and girls are using now. They call it Colorado,” she revealed.

Describing an encounter with a patient in her hospital, Dr. Adamson delved into the alarming specifics of this synthetic drug. “In fact, one in my hospital yesterday insisted he was not taking Indian hemp but ‘Colorado.’

“I asked what Colorado was, and he explained that it’s Indian hemp, but synthesized in a lab. They add spices from the far east, from China, from Japan – exotic spices altering their level of perception, leading to erratic behavior.”

She noted the impact of these synthetic substances on users, explaining, “When they take the drugs, they’re like semicomatose. Methamphetamines send quick messages between the brain and the body.

“Abnormal messages result in abnormal behavior. Many of these young people are experiencing this, and it’s disheartening.”

Dr. Adamson expressed hope in programmes that raise awareness among young people about the consequences of substance use.

She said “we are just praying that programs like this, where young people are exposed to look at the issues themselves for the use or not for the use of these drugs.”

Also speaking,  a consultant psychiatrist from the Neuro Psychiatric Hospital Aro, Abeokuta, sounded the alarm on the impending dangers of substance abuse in Nigeria. 

He spoke  about the root causes and the potential long-term impacts, the expert paints a grim picture of a society at risk.

The consultant psychiatrist, reflecting on the current state of affairs, asserted that the prevalent substance abuse issues are not isolated incidents but, rather the aftermath of systemic failures dating back almost three decades.

He pointed to the collapse of Nigeria’s educational system as a crucial factor, emphasizing the oversight in designing the curriculum, which primarily focused on cognitive abilities while neglecting other vital aspects essential for shaping young lives.

Expressing concern over the country’s trajectory, the psychiatrist warned that Nigeria might be labeled a failed state due to systemic problems.

 He urged immediate and strategic interventions to avert a catastrophic situation in the next 10 to 20 years.

The substance abuse epidemic, according to the expert, is a global concern affecting young people worldwide. 

Despite efforts by various stakeholders, the psychiatrist acknowledged that the problem remains severe and could have been even more devastating without ongoing educational initiatives. 

He commended the collective efforts of local authorities, state and federal governments, international communities, NGOs, and other entities in raising awareness about substance use disorders.

However, the psychiatrist acknowledged that the issue is multifactorial.

 The complex interplay of factors includes the global economic downturn, rising insecurity, and the erosion of family values. He emphasized the role of psychological difficulties arising from crises, violence, and wars worldwide, leading individuals to self-medicate using substances.

The erosion of family values and changing lifestyles were also identified as contributors to the problem. The advent of social media has further complicated matters, with incorrect messages influencing the younger generation. 

The psychiatrist highlighted the dangerous trend of young people modeling their lives after individuals who, despite projecting prosperity, are engaged in substance use.

… NMA Chairman, Psychiatric Association Secretary  Advocate Urgent Measures

 Dr. Kunle Ashimi, the Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Ogun State,  and Dr.Abayomi  Olajide, the Secretary-General of the Association of Psychiatric in Nigeria have underscored the crucial role of government intervention in the ongoing battle against drug abuse.

They both  emphasized the collaborative efforts of NGOs and the medical community, urging the government to play a more active role.

According to Ashimi, “the war against drug abuse is being fought by NGOs, the medical community, and we are hoping that the government will also come in strong.

” When the government takes decisive action, law enforcement agencies will follow suit.”

Commending the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for their tremendous efforts, he revealed that recent drug seizures, exceeding 100 billion Naira in value, highlight the severity of the issue.

 Dr. Ashimi expressed concern about the implications for Nigeria, stating that individuals on drugs pose a potential danger to the community due to their disinhibited behaviour.

In his remarks,   Olajide, who is  a consultant at the psychiatric hospital Aro, echoed these concerns, suggesting that the government should declare drug abuse as an epidemic.

“The effect has reached an alarming rate, and 8 out of 10 patients in conventional hospitals are related to substance abuse,” noted Dr. Olajide. He emphasized the societal menace and the diminishing moral values among teenagers and young people.”

Dr. Olajide praised initiatives aimed at reversing this dangerous trend, considering them laudable projects in the fight against drug abuse.

Both medical experts stressed the need for coping mechanisms, societal awareness, and government actions to make life easier for Nigerians, emphasizing that addressing the economic conditions contributing to drug abuse is essential for long-term success.

 

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