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Developing Our Identity Without Drugs

Posted: Jun 19, 2015 at 7:53 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Rasak Musbau


An American novelist and philosopher, Philip Kindred Dick, once affirmed that: “Drug misuse is not a disease; it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error of judgment.”  According to the United States National Institute of Drug Abuse, “behaviour associated with drug abuse is now the single largest factor in the spread of HIV infection…  For too long too many people considered the drug problem as a remote one affecting someone else or occurring somewhere else. However, the reality, as we all know, is that this problem affects all communities, in particular the youth. Today, the picture is no more about whether it is a disease or an error of judgment like Philip Dick put it, drug abuse is now being looked at from the angle of serious threat it poses to moral, health and intellectual integrity of nations.


Dr. Paul Orhii, DG, NAFDAC

Dr. Paul Orhii, DG, NAFDAC

It was the need for decisive action on its menace that prompted the United Nations General Assembly in 1987 to designate June 26 of every year as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The day, now in its 28th year, serves as a reminder of the goals agreed to by Member States of creating an international society free of drug abuse. It aims to raise awareness of the major problems that illicit drugs present to society and at the same time, remind youths and adults not to make the mistake of experimenting with drugs. The theme of this year celebration, “Let’s develop our lives, our communities, our identities without drugs”, is very apt and underscores commitment of global communities to the health and well being of humanity.

A drug is a substance used for medical purposes that changes the state or function of the body. On the other hand, drug abuse is a situation when drug is taken more than it is prescribed. It could 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.

World Health Organization (WHO) defines substance abuse as “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 has led to problems such as; upsurge in crime, violence and corruption; destruction of individuals, families and communities; and the undermining of national economies.

A drug dependent person feels very uncomfortable and does not function optimally any time the regularly abused drug is not available. If the person is seriously dependent or addicted, failure to take this drug may lead to illness. If this situation is as a result of financial difficulty, this individual may resort to borrowing, stealing or prostitution. Prostitution as a means of satisfying drug needs is particularly common in female drug addicts. The implication to the spread of HIV infection and AIDS can be better imagined.  The social effects of abuse of drug, particularly alcohol, include road accidents, loss of jobs, poor academic and job performances, unstable family set up etc.

One has control over the choice to start using drugs, but once addicted, the pleasurable effect of drugs makes one want to keep using them. There are lots of reasons why people take illegal drugs. Some take them to escape their problems while others are bored, curious or just want to feel good. People may be pressured into taking drugs to “fit in” with a particular crowd (such as is the case with street urchins, road unions, cult group etc.) or they may take drugs to rebel or get attention. People can become addicted to illegal drugs as well as drugs prescribed by doctors. When prescription drugs are taken the right way, they are safe and there is usually little chance of addiction. However, prescription drugs can be dangerous if they are abused.


Presently, in Nigeria, there is an unending desire by governments at all levels to sensitize the citizenry, especially the youths, on the evil of drug use and abuse. Drug use and abuse is the primary reason why many youths are incarcerated, as well as a source of crime and health problem. It has become a serious problem in Nigeria such that the number of youth incarcerated in various prisons across the country has increased. In-fact, many youths have been arrested for various drug related offences. Some of the factors contributing to this arrest are the public awareness of the danger in drug abuse and the “war on Drugs” declared by the Federal and various State Governments using various agencies like the NDLEA, NAFDAC, NOA, States Inter-ministerial Drug Abuse Committee etc.


It is rather worrisome that drug abusers are mostly youth. This should be a source of great concern to everyone. This is why pro – health campaign in Lagos State is very strong with usage of multi-sectoral approach and collaborative and synergetic efforts of many MDAs. Lagos State structured its fight against drug abuse around the Inter-ministerial Drug Abuse Committee that consists of Ministries of Heath, Youth and Social Development, Information and Strategy, Transportation, Education, Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Lagos Television. Commendably, Lagos State has established drug-free club and included drug abuse in its school curriculum to target the school pupils/students. The Lagos state anti-drug war has always attracted support from NDLEA and private sectors with organizations like Emzor Pharmaceuticals Ltd as reliable allies.


As the International Day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking is celebrated globally on June 26, the lesson for our youth and adults is that breaking the addiction is the only way to stop the problems of drugs use and abuse. In this wise, anti-narcotic agency must step up the clampdown on the production, control of the sale, distribution and use of illicit drugs. It s also expected that government at all levels will carefully fund a comprehensive public education and enlightenment programmes on the nature of ill of drug abuse and its treatment. This is a task that the National Orientation Agency (NOA) as well as the Federal and State Ministries of Information must be actively involved in. Parents are powerful and can make a huge difference. So, parents as a matter of necessity must talk to their children about drug usage and abuse. Together we can develop our lives, our communities, our identities without drugs.

Musbau is of Features Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.