The indiscriminate abuse of drugs and other addictive substances such as morphine and most prominently amphetamines, marijuana, tobacco- chewed or snuffed and alcohol, particularly among the youths and adults alike in Nigeria is gradually getting out of hand. There is need for government to put in place stringent drug control policies to check the ugly development which is assuming a frightening proportion in the recent times. Although morphine and heroin are not very affordable to the majority of drug addicts, amphetamines, kolanut, tobacco and marijuana are most commonly used by those described as marginal migrant population, prominently so among northern labourers and students.
Alcohol is prevalent as social drinking associated with the middle and upper class, the majority of whom are private car owners and drivers who contribute in making our roads unsafe. A survey conducted in 2019 shows that about 14.3 million people in Nigeria use drugs outside those prescribed by medics and that those involved in drug use and addiction are between 16 and 64 years of age. One in every four drug users is also a woman, according to the survey carried out by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes in collaboration with the office of National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse funded by the European Union (EU.)
It is also reported that the number of drug users in Nigeria is far higher than the entire population of some European countries and twice the global average of 3.5% in 2018. Close to 3 million of drug users who are drug dependent don’t even have access to health care owing to lack of facilities, the report said. Street corners, bus terminals and motor parks are not spared of illicit drugs openly hawked by women, in most cases, who are patronised by touts and drivers. Young men and women are seen in open places smoking and puffing away at substances suspected to be marijuana, damning the consequences. Drug abuse is a huge problem we have on our hands and if not dealt with squarely could spell doom for the country.
It is imperative to note the high rate in which the substances are being abused in the aftermath of the COVID-19 scourge with many out of job, poverty, fuel price increase, frustration and despondency now the order of the day. The country is already battling with drug-related crimes and diseases such as rape, violence against women and minors, wife battering, banditry, cultism among other vices threatening our corporate existence. Although there are no accurate statistical data on drug-related accidents on our roads, there is ample evidence that some of the frequent road mishaps are attributable to alcohol-induced accidents. The time is now for the government to take the issue of drug abuse and addiction more seriously by coming out with policies that would discourage the consumption of these dangerous substances capable of destroying the society.