Jerome- Mario Utomi
I remember with nostalgia how participants at a focused group discussion held recently in Lagos, bemoaned the infestation of our nation by social problems perpetrated consciously and unconsciously by her own people. Warning that under this condition, it may be considered audacious to talk of creating a better society, while we are still battling with the problems of a battered economy arising from corruption, social vices and institutional decay.
It was clearly stated that the consumption of hard drugs in amounts and ways not authorised by medical professionals has become but a silent reality that Nigerians should worry about. Although drug abuse cuts across all social strata, powerful statistics make it abundantly clear that the youths, mostly males, with a sprinkle of females, are the real culprits.
The event, themed, The alarming increase in drug abuse: What did we do wrong?, was organised by the Justice and Peace Development Centre in Ketu, Lagos.
Indeed, the worries expressed by the participants without fail has become a living reality validated by the death of three undergraduates in Ihiagwa, one of the satellite communities close to the Federal University of Technology, Owerri , Imo State, after allegedly having sex with a female student of the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, also in Imo State. All four students, news reports claimed, died after consuming a mixture of Tramadol, Codeine and vodka.
This is a striking human tragedy deepened by the awareness that it was avoidable, particularly when one remembers that the incident occurred neither by accident nor as the first half of a re-occurring cycle.
For decades, we have been warned with mountains of evidence that this was coming, yet, our leaders ignored the warnings and described it as a prank. Now we have learnt a very useful lesson that we can no longer ignore.
The tragedy, which occurred in a private hostel has additionally brought to the core government’s underfunding challenge of tertiary institutions of higher learning and its failure to providing basic facilities, such as hostel accommodation to the educational sector – a malady that runs deep through successive administrations.
If adequate hostel accommodation were provided within the school premises by the government, chances are that the monitoring of these youths would have been enhanced. More importantly, there is an urgent need to remap strategies to prevent a re-occurrence of the sad event.
Going by reports, there are three main forms of drug abuse. They include the use of mood-altering or psycho-active drugs, performance-enhancing drugs and dependency drugs.
While mood-altering or psychoactive drugs, such as codeine and tramadol, affect the user’s ability to reason and gives him a false sense of well-being, performance-enhancing drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, gives him extra stamina or energy.
Dependency drugs typify the kind of drugs that people abuse in the course of trying to overcome some health issues or challenges or taken to maintain a particular lifestyle. So what does this mean to our nation where every day ‘exciting progress’ is made in the consumption of these substances without recourse to prescription. This stunning awareness, in my view, has made getting to the root of this social challenge more compelling.
Apart from negative peer influence, unemployment, anxiety and a continuous need to run away problems are the major reason why Nigerian youths take to drugs. This, however, may not be the only explanation fueling this social evil.
Specifically, the desire by these youths to hide their weaknesses, failure on the part of parents to raise their children properly, the broken home syndrome and pressure to succeed at all costs also promote drug abuse among youths.
Users fail to understand that, aside from the belief that more people have silently been destroyed by substance abuse than any other factor, drug abuse has never helped anybody.
It has been proved that drug consumption in amounts or methods not authorised by medical professionals has in the past led to mental disorder. It has also disrupted the user’s education and future, led to poor attitude to work and caused health problems, such as lung disease, heart disease and death, among others.
It is, no doubt, socio-economic problem that requires a prompt solution as the future strength of our nation depends on these young people. The Federal Government and its agencies should come up with strategies that will effectively tackle the challenge from its roots. I think that what the government is doing in this direction is but a palliative measure, which can only provide temporary relief, while leaving the disease and its ravages unaffected.
To succeed in this task, government must create jobs for the youths. Addressing the challenges facing education sector, particularly in terms of funding and tackling the infrastructural challenge will also be a right step taken in the right direction by the government.
Re-orientation of the youth on cultural values by faith-based organisations and civil society groups will assist them to quit the consumption of illicit drugs and the unwholesome behaviours that endanger their lives and threaten the society.
Parents and guardians must strive to monitor their children at all times and be aware of the kind of friends their children keep, as well as the places to go to. These, in the words of Ben Carson, are things that used to be done quite routinely by caring guardians. Unfortunately many young people derive their identity from their peer groups and their social network, which can be extensive.
Youths on their part must recognise that the future is full of promises as it is fraught with uncertainty. They should, therefore, develop the capacity to seek activities laced with highest values
- Jerome-Mario Utomi wrote in from Lagos
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