DRUG ABUSE: A VARIANT OF POVERTY, INSECURITY CORRODING NATIONS' GRASSROOT POTENTIALS (WEEKLY SECURITY DASHBOARD FOR THE PERIOD FEBRUARY 6 - 11, 2022)
Drug and substance abuse has become the new norm embarked by several youths to escape the pains and trauma associated with poverty and the rising cost of living, thereby eroding the foundational structure of several nations.
The youths are the future generation of a country, but where the majority of the youths are enmeshed in drugs, the nation may be heading towards doom faster than anticipated.
The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Brig General Buba Marwa, during the launching of the War Against Drugs Abuse (WADA) Club at the University of Abuja, warned that the nation faces a grim future over the rate of drugs prevalence among youths wondering, "what will become of Nigeria with about 70% youth population ravaged by drugs".
Many who engage in substance abuse claim it produces a relaxing yet euphoric high that gets them relaxed and lives in denial of their pains, stress, and trauma.
Substance abuse is the abuse of harmful or hazardous psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs.
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Aside from putting users on a heavy financial burden, drug abuse can negatively impact their health.
The evolution of the complex global illicit drug problem has a bearing and relationship with the security crisis and poverty level plaguing a nation.
Studies indicate that the primary causes of insecurity are the menace of unemployment and poverty, elite exploitation of ethnicity and religious differences.
Others include corruption, weak security apparatus, porous border, marginalization and inequality, bad governance and poor leadership.
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Findings show that countries entrenched in poverty are plagued more by the menace of drug abuse.
Records of drug consumption indicate that Nigeria occupies the prime position of number one highest consumer of cannabis worldwide.
A recent publication credited to Business Day says, "According to the Global Cannabis Report and the Africa Hemp and Cannabis Report, both giving 2019 Industry Outlooks, Nigeria has the highest rate of cannabis use in the world.
"At number one position, Nigeria with 19.4% of its population using cannabis, followed by Canada with 15.8 per cent, and in the third position, the United States with 15 percent. According to the reports, the total demand for cannabis in Africa is estimated at $37 billion. The lion's share of the regional demand ($15.3 billion) is in Nigeria, which is the continent's most populous country with the world's highest cannabis usage rate, followed by Ethiopia ($9.8 billion), and Morocco ($3.5 billion).
"Nigeria's population over the age of 15 consumed cannabis in the past year and at least 12 per cent consume it monthly".
Cannabis remains the most widely used illicit substance in the African Region. The highest prevalence and increase in use occur in West and Central Africa, with rates between 5.2% and 13.5%. Various drugs are trafficked through East Africa with the most popular exports being heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
According to the World Bank report titled, 'COVID-19 in Nigeria: Frontline Data and Pathways for Policy.' "The general increase in food prices which occurred between June 2020 and June 2021 may have increased the percentage of Nigerians living below the national poverty line from 40.1 per cent to 42.8%.
"The current population of Nigeria is 213,145,112 as of November 2021. 42% of the current population means about 91 million Nigerians may have been pushed below the national poverty line in one year due to the food price inflation witnessed between June 2020 and June 2021.".
Therefore, it is not surprising that with almost half of the nation wallowing in poverty, over 70% have taken to drugs to cushion the effects of pain, desolation, and frustration.
In a related development, Sierra Leone has also come under the siege of "Kush", a drug menace wreaking havoc on the majority of the country's youthful population.
Kush, the latest cheap illegal drug ravaging Sierra Leone, has been attributed to having sent over 90% of male admissions to the central psychiatric ward.
According to a newly released BBC Africa Eye Documentary titled "Kush: Into the Mad World", the illegal drug is on the rise across Sierra Leone, and it is taking the youths of the country to the dark. Kush has overtaken drugs like tramadol, cocaine, and several expensive ones. However, most consumers say the drug helps them ease their stress.
"Young people who are addicted to this drug kill or harm themselves and others around them. The most disturbing aspect is that the drug is not only taken by men, women, and girls are also consuming it, with some ladies going to the extreme of selling sex to earn money so she can buy the drugs and over 70 percent of her earnings is spent on buying kush every day".
Kush is a type of cannabis grown natively in the mountains on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to cannabis consumers, kush readily comes in handy because it produces in its users a relaxing yet euphoric high that gets them relaxed and lives in denial of their pains and trauma.
The link between drug abuse and poverty abides in studies that show that the poverty rate of Sierra Leone fell gradually from 72.9 % in 1989 to 43 % in 2018. Meanwhile, food insecurity and vulnerability to shocks have worsened significantly over the past ten years for most Sierra Leoneans, reaching a staggering 57 percent of the population. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout have further exacerbated living conditions and access to basic amenities in 2020.
Similarly, reiterating the dastard consequences of substance abuse, studies published early January 2021 described Scotland as the drug death capital of the world.
Findings from the report indicated that more people would die in Scotland between December 15, 2020, and New Year's Day January 1, 2021) than in Portugal in a whole year, which once had a similar drug death crisis, until they focused on health, not criminalization, and funded treatment properly. This indicates that users' health should be the focal point to ameliorate the effects of drug abuse against criminalization, which has instead increased the number of users over the years.
Even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Scotland was blithe by poverty, with over one million in an estimated population of 5.5million trapped in poverty. As a result, food poverty and insecurity have become a key policy concern in Scotland.
Findings further reveal that an increasing number of households in Scotland cannot sustain standard food shopping and eating patterns, with many seeking charitable food aid.
EONS Intelligence, in addition to the Drug Integrity Test, proposed by NDLEA Chairman which is anticipated to metamorphose into an anti-drug policy for all higher institutions of learning in Nigeria, further suggests:
-: Facilities be available to assist people who use drugs. However, many youths have been unable to seek help as drug abuse is a criminal offence punishable by law. This drives away addicts from seeking help, neither does it reduce usage.
Instead of arresting people caught with drugs for personal use, they may be directed to rehab facilities for resuscitation, treatment and support. This will help improve health and reduce repeat occurences.
Peddlers of illicit drugs and illegal substances should face public prosecution as a deterrent for others.