By Abiemwense Moru, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
The worsening trend of drug abuse among adolescents in Nigeria has become an issue of major concern to the society.
A recent report from UN Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC) indicated an alarming rate of drug abuse, especially among children in schools.
The report said that Nigeria had one of the highest drug prevalence in West Africa with youths aged 15 and even below as culprits.
The UNODC report explained that Nigeria’s figures were “almost three times the global world use prevalence of 5.5 per cent” with the implication being that drug abuse is almost getting to an epidemic proportion.
Indeed, drugs use has continued to have devastating effects on the Nigerian society.
Recently, a young girl accused of killing a popular actor reportedly blamed her action on drugs she took.
Many youths arrested over various criminal activities have always blamed their action on drugs, according to Hakeem Odumosu, Commissioner of Police in Lagos State.
Odumosu also said that youths caught engaging in occultic activities in schools had always identified drug use as the force driving that anti-social behaviour.
The damages of drugs use among the underage to the society are many and analysts have continued to wonder where the Nigerian society missed it.
Generally, many analysts blame the menace on poor parental upbringing. They say that parents do not seem to care much about the children and hardly check their company to weed out bad friends that could breed negative influence.
Mrs. Amina Adamu, a psychologist, believes that the trend could not have turned so bad if parents gave more time to the positive upbringing of their children.
“It has been discovered that parents no longer devote time for constant talk with their children to educate them on the dangers of drug abuse.
“The homes are known to be the first schools for growing children. It is where knowledge is imparted on young minds and lessons of life taught to them.
“Basic societal values are learnt at home. If a child misses such morals from the house, the society is ready to push in vices into his or her young head, especially if he or she meets the wrong friends.
“So, it is important for parents to continue to have regular talks with their children; they must preach love to them and let them feel cared for.
“Wise parents must befriend their children and help them to draw the line between good and bad, and explain why they must opt for the right path by letting them know the consequences of taking the wrong lane.
“Parents of adolescent children must speak with them when they enter secondary schools and tertiary institutions. It is the right time to tell them the dangers of drug use. Prepare your child for a time drugs may be offered so he can make the right decision by bluntly saying no,” she said.
An NGO, Save Our Heritage Initiative (SOHI), has also challenged parents to rise to the occasion of tackling and reducing drug abuse and addiction among adolescents in the country.
Mrs May Ikokwu, Chief Executive Officer of the Abuja-based NGO, identified parents as critical to the fight against rising drug addiction among different age groups, especially teenagers.
She explained that young people, who persistently abused substances, often experienced problems.
She listed the problems to include academic difficulties, health-related problems including mental health, poor peer relationships, and involvement with the juvenile justice system.
Others include declining grades, absenteeism from school and other activities, and increased potential for dropping out of school, she added.
The SOHI boss, who decried the alarming spate of drug abuse among teens, warned of dire consequences for family members, the community and the entire society.
“A drug addict in the family is likely to be stealing regularly and indiscriminately from the mother, father and siblings, neighbours and family friends, thereby constituting embarrassment and disgrace to the family,” she pointed out.
Ikokwu, however, urged parents to build trust between them and their children which was essential in reducing drug abuse.
She maintained that teens with excellent relationship with their parents were almost two times more likely to avoid friends who used drugs.
“Have open and honest conversations. Talking to teens can be tough, especially when they seemingly want nothing to do with their parents or are too sunk into their social media feeds. But we must do it,” she said.
Ikokwu added that drug abuse was capable of bringing about low level of commitment to education and higher truancy rates among adolescents.
“Cognitive and behavioural problems experienced by alcohol drug-using youth may interfere with the academics negatively,” she said.
She said that drug abuse could trigger increased risk of suicide and homicide among adolescents, thereby putting the family at risk.
Centre for Ethical Rebirth Among Nigerian Youths (CERANY), an NGO, has similarly called on religious and community leaders to increase campaign against drug abuse ravaging many communities in the country.
The President of the association, Mr Chuks Akamadu, who spoke on the issue, said that parents and siblings of drug addicts could no longer handle it alone.
“Separate bodies outside the families such as community and religious leaders should drive the campaign. Everyone must be involved in the fight to reduce the scourge in the society.
“Traditional rulers should use their influence; youth organisations, women and market associations must all be up and doing. We must all join hands together to save our youth who are our future and our hope.”
The NGO president said that if religious leaders continued to condemn the act, which had become prevalent among youths, it would go a long way to eliminate the scourge.
He also called on professional bodies to assist in the campaign against drug abuse, declaring that everyone must play a role to end the scourge.
“Drug abuse wrecks the individual; it wrecks the family and, on a larger scale, compromises national security.
“The insecurity that has become pervasive in the country today can be traced to drug abuse,” he said.
He challenged all Nigerians to rise against the menace, adding that drug abuse was now a national emergency that should bother everyone.
Akamadu challenged the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and other agencies charged with tackling the menace to handle the task diligently.
Another NGO, the Southern Nigeria Peoples Mandate, based in Enugu, has also urged Nigerians to support all government agencies fighting against drug abuse.
Its President, Mr Augustine Chukwudum, expressed worry over the increasing use of hard drugs among youths.
Chukwudum noted: “It seems the smoking of Indian Hemp among youths is taking a frightening dimension in the country.
“Before now, people who smoked Indian Hemp did it in secluded places and put up good public disguise of not engaging in drug abuse.
“But today, due to increasing number of youths subscribing to Indian Hemp and weed smoking, it is done everywhere and at anytime.
“The addicts do not care what their next door neighbours say or feel about it.”
According to him, the heightened engagement of youths in various forms of violence can be attributed to the reckless and pervasive smoking of these weeds and other psycho-active substances.
“Nigerians should not only condemn or look at the users with disdain; we must actively join in seizing any opportunity to talk to youths about its negative effects.
“The current fight against drug abuse, hard drugs and psycho-active substances should never be left to the government or NGOs alone.
“Indian Hemp and other psycho-active weeds are sold on our streets and youths take these hard drugs in the open even on the streets and neighbourhoods.
“This has resulted to heightened violence of all sorts in our residential areas and neighbourhoods. It has also caused delinquent or cult-related behaviours all around us,” he said.
As the nation battles the scourge, analysts have suggested the recruitment of psychologists and psychiatric health professionals in government and public institutions to widen avenues where youths could get help and be reformed from the claws of psycho-active substance use.
They say that the measure has become necessary to save the youths from further destruction by drug and other illicit substances. (NANfeatures)