THE chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brigadier Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa on Tuesday, lamented that more than 14.3 million Nigerians aged 15-64 years use psychoactive substances other than alcohol and tobacco, thereby constituting grave danger for the future of youth in the country.
He added that one out of four drug users is a woman while one in five persons who use drugs in Nigeria is suffering from drug use disorders, stressing that drug use is most common among the ages of 25 and 39 years.
He spoke on Tuesday in Abuja at the occasion of the Annual Public Lecture organised by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), with the theme, “Culture, Drug Abuse and the Future of the Nigerian Youth”.
He observed that the prevalent of drug abuse among the youth in the country was responsible for rising cases of prostitution, kidnapping, armed robbery, terrorism and banditry, noting that the drug users under influence commit all manner of criminality, including contracting HIV/AIDS as well mental health diseases.
Marwa said the event was apt and timely not only because it would create awareness on the dangers inherent in drug abuse but also sensitise the entire society on their roles in drug abuse prevention, treatment and care.
While quoting a report by the National Drug Use Survey conducted by the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2018, Marwa disclosed people who inject drugs constitute a sizeable proportion of high-risk drug users in Nigeria as 1 in 5 high risk drug users is injecting drugs.
He explained that drug abuse referred to the consumption of drugs in a manner that deviates from approved medical or social norms and can lead to negative physical, psychological and social consequences, pointing out that drug use in Nigeria cuts across all ages, gender, religion, socio economic status and regions.
Marwa said: “I wish to start this presentation by commending the organisers of this Annual Public Lecture, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) for your thoughtfulness and initiative at organising this very important event. This has, in many ways, demonstrated your deep commitment and passion to rid our society of the menace of drug abuse and its associated consequences.
“This event is apt and timely not only because it will create awareness on the dangers inherent in drug abuse but will also sensitise the entire society on their roles in drug abuse prevention, treatment and care,” he said.
He said: “The National Drug Use Survey conducted by UNODC (2018) revealed that about 14.3 million Nigerians aged 15-64 years use psychoactive substances other than alcohol and tobacco.
“The most common drug of use is Cannabis, followed by pharmaceutical opioids, cocaine, heroin etc. Another disturbing finding of the National Survey is the fact that one out of four drug users is a woman while one in five persons who use drugs in Nigeria are suffering from drug use disorders and drug use was most common among the ages of 25 and 39 years.
“People who inject drugs constitute a sizeable proportion of high risk drug users in Nigeria as 1 in 5 high risk drug users is injecting drugs.
“Drugs/Psychoactive substances are substances that when taken exert major action on the brain and the spinal cord and are classified as:
“Depressants: These substances depress the central nervous system by slowing down the activity of the brain. They are often medically prescribed but are abused for their intoxicating effect; examples are alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturate and heroin, cough syrup with codeine, morphine, pethidine and Methadone.
“The National Drug Use Survey 2018 revealed that an estimated 4.6 million Nigerians had used opioids (such as tramadol, codeine, or morphine) for non-medical purposes. The non-medical use of cough syrups containing codeine and dextromethorphan is estimated at 2.4 million people,” he stated.
Executive secretary of National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Ado Muhammed Yahuza, in his welcome address, raised the alarm over drug and substance abuse especially among Nigerian youths, expressing the urgent need for collective action in order to save youths and the nation from avoidable negative consequences.
Yahuza, commended the Executive Chairman/Chief Executive and management of Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement agency for the aggressive, proactive and effective manner it has executed its mandate in the last couple of years.
He said the war against drug abuse prosecuted by NDLEA has been a huge success considering the large number of arrest and convictions they have secured.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed who was represented by the Director, International Cultural Relations, Zainab Ali-Biu, described as worrisome the menace of drug abuse among youths, saying this remains a critical issue that deserves the attention and urgent action not only by government and its relevant agencies such as NDLEA, National Orientation Agency (NOA), NICO and a host of others but all and sundry.
He added that family, religious bodies, socio-cultural organizations, civil society organizations and the mass media all have a role to play to complement the efforts of government in addressing the problem in order to save the nation from its devastating consequences.
Chairman of the occasion, Senator Rochas Okorocha, who is also the chairman Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, cautioned the youth against drug abuse and addiction, stressing that it was capable of ruining their lives and destinies.
He also warned against the social media war against the youth, urging them to make positive use of cell phones and other forms Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).