Youths and the dangers of drug abuse in Nigeria – Babatunde Oguntimehin


This could result in dependence syndrome, a phenomenon that develops after repeated substance use and “strong desire to take the drug, difficulty in controlling its use (and) persisting in its use despite harmful consequences,” among other issues.

The rate of drug abuse is becoming increasingly alarming among Nigerian youths. For some, it’s the thrill, the rush while others aim at finding solace to escape a deeper emotional pain by numbing themselves with tranquilizers and narcotics, amongst others.

There are also various social factors that have resulted in drug abuse. These include decline of family value systems, parents not playing their roles properly, children and youth therefore not receiving proper guidance, peer pressure, social media influence, poverty and unemployment.

Research has shown that the highest levels of drug use were recorded among youths aged between 25 to 39. These drugs include Cannabis, sedatives, heroin, cocaine and the non-medical use of prescription opioids.

The most commonly abused drugs in Nigeria are Cannabis, Tramadol and Codeine. Reports indicate Nigeria is a leader in global cannabis consumption with an estimated 20.8 million users.

While cannabis is the most widely used drug globally and in Nigeria, opioids (e.g Tramadol and Codeine) are responsible for most of the negative health impacts of drug use.

Tramadol is a synthetic opioid analgesic used to treat moderate to severe pain and is one of the most abused medicine among addicts. It has no effects on the respiratory system but overdose causes arrhythmias, cramps, coma and death.

Codeine can be obtained as an over-the-counter painkiller and cough medicine in Nigeria but consumers often become addicted. The risk of addiction is great, and consumers are required to have prescriptions for all opioid-based medications. The misuse of codeine products contributes to severe health outcomes including liver damage, stomach ulceration, respiratory depression, coma and death.

Substance abuse hurts abusers in many ways. Drug abuse could lead to diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C and even stroke. Death could come as a result of overdose. It could hurt the victim’s finances as a lot of money goes into maintaining the habit.

At the place of work, it could result in diminishing productivity and eventual sacking. Socially, people who abuse drugs steal to sustain the habit, which could also alienate them from their families and close friends as the drug takes precedence over any other thing.

Drug use in Nigeria has become a public health challenge and in order to address this, government must recognize the extent and seriousness of problems associated with drug addiction and make it a national priority. NGOs, Parents, Education and religious institutions must also address the issues holistically and with vigour.

Strategic agencies (Nigeria Custom Services, NDLEA and NAFDAC) responsible for importation and regulation of controlled medicines must collaborate on the distribution and use of illicit drugs.

Nigeria must also bridge the major gaps in its healthcare system in meeting the needs for treatment and care for people with drug use disorders.


Babatunde Oguntimehin writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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