By Constance Meju
Photos by Gift Jonah
There is widespread drug usage in Nigeria. A recentsensitization training of influencer stakeholders by the MTN Foundation, ASAPin Port Harcourt has disclosed that one in every seven Nigerian aged between 15and 64 years, has used drug in the past. An estimated 10.8 million men and 3.4million women use drug.
This was part of findings of a national survey ondrug usage and health conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics Center forResearch and Information on Substance Abuse with technical support from theUnited Nations Office on Drugs and Crime with funding from the European Union.
The survey listed women as highest drug abusers withone of every four indulging in hard drugs while the highest age bracket ofusers is the 25-39 year olds. Lowest levels of drug users are those below 24years although the use of Amphetamines and ecstasy drugs are high among youngpeople. Non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids and cough syrups were foundamong older people aged between 45 and 64 years.
The report revealed that 376, 000 high risk drugusers are in the country and one in every high risk drug user, injects drugs.As many as 80,000 Nigerians inject drugs and nearly 90 per cent of them areopioid users.
High riskdrug users were defined as persons who had used opioids, crack cocaine oramphetamines in the past one year as well as those who have used it at leastfive times in the last 30 days. The most common drugs injected in the last 12months include pharmaceutical opioids followed by cocaine and heroin. Opioidinjection is 75 per cent.
Also, more men injected drugs (78per cent) but womenwere more likely than men to inject heroin and women who inject drugs are morelikely than men to engage in high risk sexual behaviours with increased risk ofcontracting HIV/AIDS. Among those who inject drugs, nearly half admitted tohaving used a needle or syringe.
On results of drug usage abuse, the survey revealedthat there was self-related prevalence of infections among high risk usersincluding, people who inject drugs, PWID. However, while there may beself-reporting bias, participants at the sensitization programme were told thatthe 2014 national data on HIV among PWID based on bio-behaviourial surveillancecovering six states of the federation reported that 3.4 per cent of PWIDs wereHIV positive.
An estimated 95 per cent reported using more thanone substance either concurrently o subsequently, in the past 12 months whilethe general population of drug users in the country was put at 42 per cent.
Linking drug usage to crime, the survey stated thata quarter of high risk drug users had been arrested for drug-related offencesduring the period under review and many users had been arrested for theft (12per cent), sex work (five per cent), burglary (four per cent) and shoplifting(two per cent). The average age of first time offenders was 24 years andgenerally, high risk drug users were arrested on an average of three times in alifetime.
The survey also revealed that there are not enoughcenters to take care of drug users in the country despite the huge number ofthose seeking to kick the habit. Treatment for problem drug use is mainlyavailable in tertiary hospitals, some non-governmental organization andfaith-based centers while treatment is through in-patient and limitedout-patient services offered in drug units within some hospitals and drugtreatment services are free but expensive, running into hundreds of thousands.
According to the survey, 12 per cent of high drugusers had received treatment for a drug problem over the period of drug usageand in the past 12 months; only four per cent of drug users received treatment.
Listing major barriers to drug treatment in Nigeria,the survey noted that 42 per cent of high risk drug users opted for treatmentbut were unable to access it as a result of prohibitive cost, fear and socialstigma, non-availability of treatment centers and lack of information on whereor how to access needed treatment.
In response to drug issues between 2013 and 2019,participants were told that under theUNODC Project, tagged ‘Response to drugs and Related Organized Crimes in Nigeria,’ set up to step up efforts infighting hard drug production, trafficking and use as well as curbing relatedorganized crimes including counterfeit narcotics and psychotropic, stakeholdersin the country, including, the NDLEA, ministries of Health, Budget and National Planning andEducation, the Judiciary (Federal High Court), the Nigeria Police and thePrison Service have jointly recorded some achievement.
Impact on evidence based information on drug use,drug crime has accordingly, improved policy impact and programming , enhancedtechnical and operational capacity in frontline agencies and services have ledto targeted intervention on drug organized crime and related activities as wellas improvement in internal scrutiny processes.
Major policy achievements include the development ofthe National Drug Control Master Plan 2015 – 2019, National Minimum Standardsof drug treatment for Nigeria (2015), national guidelines on estimation ofnarcotics, precursors and psychotropic substances for medical and scientificpurposes.
The body has also provided drug treatment to over1200 health practitioners and established and support to 11 model drugtreatment centers and regional centers as well as developed a national policyguideline for drug counseling for NDLEA.
For improvement in the status of Nigeria currently a key transit point for drug trafficking and producer of cannabis and ATS, which has made drug usage widespread in the six geo-political zones, participants called for removal/reduction of various barriers in place that prevent access to drug treatment services, adverse social and criminal justice consequences associated with drug use.
The programme noted that no one approach can end drug abuse and advised people to simply say ‘No to Drug’.
Resource persons were Maria Ilugbuhi and Olusesan Oshotemihin.
The sensitization on drugs and drug prevention,treatment and care (DPTC) held May 14 – 15 at the Ministry of Health, RiversState Secretariat Complex, Port Harcourt and featured sessions on ‘The Drug Situationin Nigeria’, ‘Understanding the Concept of Supply Reduction’, ‘Understanding the Concept ofDrug Demand and Drug Harm Reduction’, ‘Drugs and Effects/Understanding DrugDependency and Cause of Drug Use and Associated Stigma of Drug Uses.”
The report implies dangers to women’s health both asdrug users and care givers to drug victims and even exposures to risk in thehands high risk drug users who end up abusing women. There is therefore need tosupport calls for improved services and vigilance and amplified calls to ‘SayNo to Drugs’ as a way of reducing incidents of violent gender abuses like rape.
The training was for social influencers in the drugcontrol area drawn from CSOs, media and faith-based organizations.
#SayNo to Drugs
(Withreports from Gift Jonah)
*Constance Meju is the publisher of Port Harcourt based National Point Newspaper;a dedicated gender equality and human rights advocate.