27th June, 2019
By resolution 42/112 of December 7, 1987, the United Nations General Assembly decided to observe June 26 every year as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking as an expression of its determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse.
The day as an event is celebrated worldwide with much conscious fervor to make people aware and emphasize the hazards of drug addiction and illegal trafficking. This is a problem which is a major deterrent to humanity and a poison to the well-being of the youth. Drug Abuse in particular poses greater problems to the socio-economic and political stability of any nation while also disturbing her sustainable development.
The World Drug Day is supported each year by individuals, communities and various organizations all over the world, all with the aim to raise awareness of the major problems that illicit drugs represent to society.
This year’s theme: Health for Justice. Justice for Health highlights that justice and health are two sides of the same coin when it comes to addressing drug problems.
Effective responses to the world drug problem require inclusive and accountable institutions of criminal justice, health and social services to work hand in hand to provide integrated solutions, in line with the international drug control conventions, human rights obligations and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Drug and Substance Abuse : The Bane of our Nation
The menace of Drug and Substance Abuse has taken a new dimension with more of our Youth population daily getting involved with little or no remorse. One would readily arrogate this to youthful exuberance and rising pop culture and of course lack of awareness of the health implications of their habits. The trend has become worrisome, especially because these Youths who mostly constitute the productive part of our population are being endangered by Drug and Substance Abuse.
This is a wake up call for all hands to be on deck towards rescuing a population under siege. It is therefore not a surprise that major stakeholders in Health, Justice and Society have been coming together at different times to find a sustainable solution to the rampaging scourge that seeks to devour our Youths and destroy our nation. This also resonates with the theme for this years’ World Drug Day.
Let me take you a few decades back, when illicit drug discussions and reports were primarily around people trafficking in drugs. Then, what you would probably hear or read about is a drug courier that was apprehended leaving or passing through the country. During that period our problem was how to reduce Drug Supply. It was uncommon at the time to see People freely engaging in Drug Abuse. Even those involved were mostly smoking Marijuana ( Indian Hemp ) while just a few could afford Cocaine and Heroin . At that time, ours was only a transit Nation.
Today the rate of consumption of illicit Drugs and other dangerous Substances has reached a serious and alarming proportion with Nigeria moving towards being one of the highest Drug consuming nations. Alas! We have become a big user of Illicit drugs.
The Abuse has been broadened to include Prescription medications like Opioid analgesic, Tramadol, Codeine containing syrup and Benzodiazepines . In fact, 14% of the worlds population of Opioids abusers are Nigerians. Some other non conventional substances are also commonly abused, like inhalants, lizard dung and bio-generic fumes.
In a recent publication on the prevalence of Drug use in Nigeria by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ( UNODC), Nigeria recorded a prevalence of 14.4% which is more than twice the global average of 5,6% and it was observed that Drug use was most common among those who were between the ages of 25 and 39.
In Nigeria alone at least 14.3 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 used drugs during the period under review (2017) with 1 in 7 persons in this age group involved, this is against a global average of 1 in 20 persons. It is also worthy of note that 1 in 4 people who abuse drugs are women. We are therefore not surprised that most of the crimes perpetrated in the society are by Teenagers and the Youths who are under the influence of drugs.
Drug abuse has become a serious societal health problem that the United Nations in its theme for this year’s World Drug day “ Health for Justice, Justice for Health” has beckoned on stakeholders in Health, Justice and Society to work together to find a sustainable solution.
Understanding Drug / Substance Abuse and the impact on Health and Society
Drug Abuse is the consistent use of a drug or substance in amounts which can be harmful to Health. The drugs are usually used in a way different from approved medical and social practices. It is also the use of certain chemicals for creating a feeling of euphoria.
Some of these drugs are applied in methods( use of needles) which exposes the user to the risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis B and C infections. It has been established that 20% of high risk drug users inject drugs with its resultant consequences.
A lot of factors have been adduced for why abuse is on the rise. Such include: peer group pressure for Teenagers and Youths, Parental deprivation, easy availability and affordability of drugs, growing unemployment of Youths, urbanization, rapid civilization, digitalization and increase in the number of dysfunctional families, just to mention a few. The digital media is inundated with information, most of which are unverifiable with outright intention to mislead the teeming gullible youth populace.
Lack of awareness on drug abuse related issues remains a bane of our society. From family to school, the workplace to communities, a lot of our people do not have a good understanding of this Social Health malaise. Most worrisome is the health implication of Drug use to the drug dependent persons which most times are unknown to them until it becomes rather too late resulting in psychosis or death.
Drug Regulatory Agencies, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies (NDLEA) set up by Decree No. 48 of 1989 and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration & Control (NAFDAC), promulgated by Decree No. 15 of 1993, both operating across the 36 states of the Federation have put in so much effort in addressing our current Drug situation albeit with little to show for it. This led to the institution of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Eradication of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) in 2018, chaired by Brigadier Buba Marwa with the task of pulling together all Stakeholders to chart a course that would lead to the eradication of this menace called Drug Abuse.
CADAM- DOING GOOD, RESTORING HOPE
Our organization Christ Against Drug Abuse Ministry (CADAM) , a faith based NGO under the auspices of the Redeemed Christian Church of God has been helping Drug dependent people since 1991. We have turned out over 2000 graduates from our Rehabilitation Centres in Akute and Epe, most of whom had undergone a 12 month drug rehabilitation program and have fully integrated back into society and doing well today.
CADAM is a partner to other agencies that are diligently working to reduce the menace of Drug and Substance Abuse, These include NDLEA, UNODC, PACEDA. Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development.
Having come to the reality of the demands of the present Drug predicament, we decided to expand our scope of activities to include Preventive care , Treatment & Rehabilitation and Aftercare services. These three services, we believe will go a long way to reduce the scourge and at the same time help to create a safer society for all to live in. We plan to reach out to more Nigerians through the creation of Public awareness programs that will reach millions of people across the Nations.. Hence the Birth of our Programs and Orientation Directorate with the responsibility of providing the requisite information that would improve knowledge on Drug Abuse and the dangers inherent therein.
A plan to have representation in every state of the Federation is in the pipeline where we will work with partners , both private and Government to establish CADAM centers where our activities will be executed across the states. You will agree with me that this is a daunting task, but we remain faithful for with Christ all things shall be possible.
With the recent understanding by all stakeholders that what is needed most at this time is Evidence Based Drug Use Prevention Care, we have put together programs for Teens In-school Awareness , that will culminate in the formation of Drug free Clubs (Teens Against Drug Abuse, TADA) in all schools under intervention. Likewise is the Youth Advocacy Program for both Private and Public Universities. We have noted that most Universities have been burdened with the issue of youth rascality leading to cultism and other antisocial behaviour by students on Campus. We are extending a helping hand to such Universities through a well designed Advocacy program which will help redirect and re-orientate the student towards better educational achievement while saying No to Drugs and dangerous substances.
As earlier said , more and more women are using drugs, but the family and society seem to be in denial. It has been established from the UNODC report that 25% of people who abuse drugs are women. So, one wonders why only a few women come out to seek help. My guess is as good as yours, the society would most likely frown at a woman who is drug dependent than if it is a man. That is also reflected in the admission into our Rehabilitation Centers where women population is below 10% at any time. So we have designed a Women Advocacy Program to reach women in their natural groups, creating awareness and empowering such to also reach out to their counterparts in and out of homes. We intend to have well thought out infomercials in the Electronic media while the Print and Outdoor media will be judiciously used for other awareness campaigns.
As a faith based NGO , we have found the church as a pivot in reaching out to both young and old. Our Church Engagement Program (CEP) is that in which we take up every opportunity given by the Church to educate Christians on Drug Abuse and its menace and offer a helping hand to those who need Counselling and Treatment as the case may be. This is on going in Redeemed Christian Church of God Parishes in Lagos state as we speak and could be extended to other churches as the need arise. Same would be implemented in other states as we pan out.
CADAM prides itself in its world class Rehabilitation Facility situated in Araga, Epe, Lagos state. Here we provide treatment and Rehabilitation services to about 200 Drug dependent persons every year. They undergo 12 months program broken down into two phases, 1& 2. The second phase prepares them for life after rehab, during which we empower beneficiaries with skills such as ICT, Home economics, Photography and Video production, Laundry, Barbing and Hairdressing, Ankara Accessories and Bead making, Soap making and Cosmetics, Tailoring and Leather works.
This June, coming from our experiences, we opened another rehabilitation centre in Abeokuta for students who are still social and experimental drug users. Here they will undergo a three-month intensive treatment program and upon our certification, they will return to school to complete their course of study.
Before the end of this year, we hope to be in at least 4 states doing what we know how to do best, which is to do good and restore hope to the seemingly hopeless people.
We know we can not do this alone, so Christ remains our cornerstone and the Church of GOD, the Redeemed Christian Church of GOD has been our origin and support through the years. We are on a great mission, which is to identify, prevent and combat the multiple causes and effect of drug abuse through the development of effective programs and services that will make individuals, families and society free from the scourge of Drug abuse and addiction thereby improving on their social health.
At this time of the year, which coincides with the World Drug Day on June 26, a day which the United Nations has designated as the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, is when we have our CADAM week. The purpose of our meeting is to solicit support in creating awareness about the menace of Drug Abuse and its impact on our Society.
The other activities we have planned for the week include an awareness Walk on Wednesday June 26, from Ndubuisi Kanu Park, Alausa to Ikeja Bus stop by 7.00am. This will be followed by an Inaugural Lecture by Ambassador Ayo Olukanni, DG, NACCIMA on Thursday June 27, at NECA House, Hakeem Balogun street, CBD, Ikeja. The title of the lecture is “Our Crisis of Drug and Substance Abuse : Strategic Options to Confront the New Frontiers.
Finally , we would like to speak to the theme of this year’s celebration of World Drug Day “ Health for Justice , Justice for Health”
This is indeed a call for re-orientation and paradigm shift in our approach to Drug phenomenon in Nigeria. We therefore recommend greater involvement and commitment on the part of Government in order to forestall the scourge of illicit drugs in the country, which can be achieved with:
1. Proper funding and support for the various institutions involved in eradication and drug control. This includes NDLEA, NAFDAC, and of course some NGOs involved in drug abuse control.
2. Establishment of credible drug rehabilitation centers across the nation as there are very few places where drug victims and dependent persons can access treatment and rehabilitation at this time
3. Non criminalization of drug dependent persons in line with the United Nations policy of treating them as victims who need help from the society rather than criminals to be punished.
4. Non stigmatization of drug victims. This will be achieved by enlightenment of our people. Drug Abuse in not an incurable condition, so there is hope of recovery for such victims. That is why today, addiction is considered a public health issue.
5. There is also need for intensive advocacy to attend the prevailing ignorance of Nigerian Youths on dangers inherent in drug abuse.
6. “Health for Justice , Justice for Health” also requires the medical and pharmaceutical institutions and practitioners to address the issues on abuse of Prescription medicines which are oftentimes products of clandestine activities of quacks parading as Professionals. A case is the production of Methamphetamine and high dose Tramadol.
7. Drug dispensing institutions must be strictly regulated and properly monitored to check the present abuse in the chain of distribution and dispensing of prescription drugs.
Together we can build a Drug Free Nation where peace and justice shall reign.