Muhammed Idris, Sokoto State Commandant of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), says Nigeria is heading towards a major drug abuse crisis, as many young people across the country are becoming drug addicts by the day.
Thousands of bottles of codeine are consumed by young Nigerians on daily basis across the country, same with the intake of tramadol, rohypnol, marijuana, and other opioids, an alarming trend that has subtly eaten deeply into the fabrics of the Nigerian society.
Idris told the ICIR that majority of the drugs being abused by young people are actually legal and can be easily purchased over the counter without doctor’s prescription.
“One of the drugs which is not illegal that government has approved to be sold is the cough syrup and we have over 20 brands of it,” Idris said.
“Secondly, we have the one they call snuff, it is local but in different varieties. They will tell you it is used to heal headache. Recently, I heard that there are snuff that enhance manpower (sexual) performance. When we catch people who buy these drugs they say majority of those drugs come from Ghana.”
Idris also revealed that many inhale substances that are much more crude and dangerous than the conventional hard drugs.
“You see somebody going to inhale latrine in the early hours of the morning how do you control that?” he wondered aloud.
“How do you control somebody who gathers the ashes of mosquito coil and sniffs it? How do you talk about somebody who uses matches, remove the chemical (and sniffs it)?
“How do you talk about somebody who carries newspaper, soaks it in water after it soaks carries the water and drink because of the chemicals that are there?
“Generally, the drugs that are being abused which are not controlled are many. Depending on the exposure of the drug addicts, they can create a lot of things that are unimaginable.
“For instance, they say lizard dung is being used by some people to get high. I have conducted a research and I discovered that old roof when soaked in water and you drink can get one high. When you get to the root of corn or millet and soak in water and drink, you get high. Where do they get those type of knowledge?”
Idris said that one of the ways the NDLEA is combating the menace of drug abuse, is not only by arresting drug peddlers and users, but by also embarking on public enlightenment exercises to educate the people on the many dangers associated with drug abuse.
“We are sitting on a time bomb, we are talking about use, we are talking about the continuity of the society which are the youth, and they are the most vulnerable,” Idris said.
“One thing that will frighten you is, recently we had an international workshop on addiction, one doctor, a psychiatric, said he conducted a survey, he said he administered questionnaire on 400 students in a particular university in Nigeria, (and) out of the 400, 272 responded that they have tasted one or two substances or drugs.
“We are talking about 70% of the students that have answered that questionnaire have tasted one or two substance of abuse. So if in a university, you have 70% being involved in drug abuse, then what are we saying? Where are we going?”
Idris also said that the role of government would be to tighten the regulations on the legal drugs that are currently very easy to purchase.
“What government will do is to regulate the production of these drugs that are abused indiscriminately and to make sure that the chain of distribution is monitored,” he said.
“Alternatively, the government can give the manufacturers a target to produce a certain number of drugs. It is not a lifesaving drug, so we can do without it.
“There are cough syrup that doesn’t have codeine content in it. There are some cough that can naturally go. So one of the ways by which the government can help this matter is to put restrictions on the production of these drugs.
“You have to take into consideration that 2019 (general election) is very much around the corner, if care is not taken and not adequately controlled, some mischievous politicians will use these things to achieve their political aim”.
Most importantly, Idris noted that the crusade against drug abuse have to start from the grassroots, the family. Parents should give their children a moral upbringing.
“They say charity begins from home. It will enable them to distinguish from what is wrong and what is right and we have to be our brother keepers”. he said.