LAGOS AND THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST DRUG ABUSE…

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

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