Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode

Tayo Ogunbiyi

According to World Health Organization (WHO), drug abuse is “the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs”. It is estimated that about 76.3 million people struggle with alcohol use disorders contributing to 1.8 million deaths per year. The United Nations reported that around 185 million people globally over the age of 15 were consuming drugs by the end of the 20th century.

Drug abuse is a situation when drug is taken more than it is prescribed. It could also be seen as the use of illicit drugs, or the abuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs. It could further be defined as the deliberate use of chemical substances for reasons other than intended medical purposes and which results in physical, mental emotional or social impairment of the user. The abuse of legal drugs can happen when people use the drugs in a manner other than directed by the manufacturer or purpose that are not legitimate.

Drug addiction occurs through excessive, maladaptive, or obsessive use of drugs for non-medicinal purposes. It is characterized by a compulsion to take drugs on a steady basis in order to experience its mental effects. Drug addiction leads to habitual dependence on drugs which gives rise to mental, emotional, biological or physical, social and economic instability.

Drug addiction, no doubt, has distressing and extremely awful consequences on the society. Violence, social deviance, mental disorders, upsurge in crime, corruption; destruction of individuals, erosion of societal values, undermining of national economies and premature death are some of the consequences of drug addiction.

It is in order to stem the increasing trend of drug abuse and addiction in the country as well as the State in particular that the Lagos State government through the Ministry of Youth and Social Development recently flagged off the Lagos State Kicks Against Drug Abuse (LASKADA). The initiative is to complement other such existing government’s efforts towards tackling drug abuse in the State.

The initiative adopts a tripod approach comprising events, engagements with stakeholders and awareness campaign. The campaign started with a 1,000-man walk against drug abuse in which the State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode and his wife, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode and other top government functionaries actively took part. With regards to awareness campaign, there are already series of activities on various platforms to ensure that the message gets to the targeted audience. Faith based organsations, traditional bodies, road transport workers, the political class, NDLEA, youth organisations; NGOs, the media and other critical stakeholders are to be constantly engaged with a view to drastically reducing the rate of drug abuse in the State.

For obvious reason, the campaign’s main target is the youth who are most vulnerable when it comes to drug abuse and other related matters. Without a doubt, the youth represents the largest population in Nigeria and is, therefore, considered the most susceptible group as far as drug and issues are concerned.

A recent United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Report shows that the age of first use in the country is 10-29 years. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has expressed concern over the increasing level of drug abuse and drug trafficking among Nigerian youths. According to the NDLEA, the situation had been worsened by the affordability of substance of abuse such as cough syrups, lizard wastes, gums and cannabis sativa popularly known as Indian hemp. Considering the delicate and sensitive position of the youth within the society, drug addiction among them remains a major threat to national growth and development.

The ingenuity introduced into substance misuse and abuse with complex mixtures, experimentation and new discoveries among young people should be a source of great concern to any people oriented government. Youth involvement in this maladaptive and anti-social behavior would, no doubt, aggravates their involvement in crimes such as h as robbery, stealing, kidnapping, cybercrime, rape, domestic violence, murder, suicide, among others.

Currently, the State government has enlisted the service of female football superstar, Asisat Osoala, who is the current African Female Footballer of the Year as Ambassador in the campaign against drug abuse. This move is quite strategic because of the erroneous notion among the youths that without drug use, success cannot be attained in the fields of sports and entertainment. Thus, it is expected that the involvement of an accomplished superstar of Osoala stature in the campaign would clearly help drive home this point. It is hoped that more superstars in the sports, arts and entertainment industry would come on board this laudable project.

Other initiatives that have earlier been put in place by the State government to deal with the scourge of drug abuse include the establishment of youth-friendly centers in all the Local Government Areas as well as Local Government Development Areas (LCDAs) to serve as venue for relaxation and recreation and to further engage the youth in productive venture so that the menace of drug abuse could be drastically eradicated. Establishment of drug dependent rehabilitation centre by the State government equally gives support to youths who are addicted to drugs.

In order to ensure that the various commitments of the State government in tackling drug abuse are not in vain, other stakeholders need to join hands with the government to put up a common front against this scourge. Environmental influence, especially during childhood, is a very important factor in drug addiction. Parents or older family members who abuse alcohol or drugs, or who engage in criminal behavior, can increase children’s risks of developing their own drug problems. Friends and acquaintances can also have an increasingly strong influence during adolescence.

Hence, parents and guardians need to demonstrate exemplary conducts that would inculcate the right moral values in their children. Equally, parents must spend more time with their children so could observe their various developmental stages with keen interest with a view to ensuring that any bad habit noticed in them are swiftly nipped in the bud before they become too complicated.

Undue struggles for economic survival should not be a justification for parents to neglect their natural role in the proper of upbringing of their children. Of what essence is a family’s financial solidity if the children are not properly brought up? It is only when parents spend ample time with their children that they could really notice negative vices and in traits in them and quickly nips such in the bud.

Also, the NDLEA and other similar law enforcement agencies must step up the clampdown on the production and illicit trafficking of banned substances. As long as these substances remain in circulation, the youths will always be tempted into consuming them. Given the enormity of the damage of drug addiction to mankind, no effort should be spared to curb its menace.

-Ogunbiyi is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos