The Federal Government says it is concerned that in spite of efforts to curb drug abuse, the menace has reached an epidemic proportion and thus requires concerted efforts by all to curb it.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Mr Olufunso Adebiyi, said this on Monday in Abuja, during a news conference to commemorate the ‘2023 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking’.
The World Drug Day marked on June 26 every year has “People First: Stop Stigma and Discrimination, Strenghten Prevention” as its theme.
Adebiyi was represented by the Director, Food and Drugs Services, Mrs Olubunmi Aribeana.
According to him, drug trafficking and use are not only a threat to the security, governance and development of a nation but also to the health of its citizenry.
“In as much as supply reduction strategies led by law enforcement and the application of criminal sanctions represent significant efforts towards curbing access to illicit drugs and their non-medical use, there is need to match such measures with innovative drug demand reduction strategies.
“Consequently, implementation of an all-inclusive and integrated approach with equal attention paid to drug supply and demand reduction is crucial.
“This is in line with the spirit of the three UN International Conventions on Drug Control established to protect human health by preventing drug abuse and dependence, and ensuring access to controlled medicines for medical and scientific purposes only.”
Drawing reference from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Adebiyi said that it was estimated that the prevalence of drug use in Nigeria was at 14.4 per cent.
This translates to 14.3 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 who use drugs like cannabis, amphetamines, tramadol, codeine and cocaine.
This, he said, was more than twice the global prevalence of 5.6 per cent among the adult population.
“The report also estimated 376,000 people to be high risk drug users with one in five of these persons injecting drugs.
“This translates to about 80,000 people estimated to be People Who Inject Drugs (PWID) in Nigeria.”
He added that 78 per cent of those injecting drugs were men and that the most common drugs injected were pharmaceutical opioids (such as tramadol, codeine or morphine), followed by cocaine, heroin and tranquilisers.
It also estimated that among every four drug users in Nigeria, one was a woman and that one in five persons who had used drugs in the past year was suffering from drug use disorders.
“Furthermore, the 2020 World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) disclosed that people who inject drugs are at increased risk of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and viral hepatitis B and C.
“This is in addition to overdose-related deaths. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also reported in 2015 that psychoactive drug use is responsible for more than 450,000 deaths per year.”
According to him, these are not just statistics but real people who are suffering from the impact of drug abuse.
He, however, said that people who use drugs were at risk of suffering from various health consequences such as infectious diseases like HIV, drug addiction or even sudden death due to opioid overdose.
“Drug abuse also hurts relationships, families and communities. Drug abuse can hinder our children from attaining high educational status; securing and maintaining great jobs; overcoming financial instability and poverty; as well as preventing us from living our lives free of violence and crime.
“Thus, while strengthening our healthcare system to proactively respond by providing healthcare services to those in need of treatment, there is also an obvious need to address barriers to treatment such as stigma and discrimination.
“We also need to strengthen prevention efforts, early detection measures and institutionalise essential harm reduction services to curb this menace in the interest of the wellbeing and development of our people.”
Adebiyi, however, said that there were concerted efforts by the Federal Government and other stakeholders to rid the nation of drug use and abuse.
They include setting up of the National Technical Working Group (NTWG) on Harm Reduction Services in Nigeria to lead the implementation of three critical harm reduction services that focus on people who use drugs.
Others are implementing the National Policy for Controlled Medicines and its Implementation Strategies, and upgrading of 11 hospitals as Model Drug Treatment Centres with the support of the UNODC, across the six geo-political zones of the country.
On the theme of the commemoration, he said that it aimed to raise awareness about the importance of treating people who use drugs with respect and empathy and providing evidence-based, voluntary services for all.
He said that it also aims to offer alternatives to punishment, prioritising prevention and leading with compassion.
On her part, Aribeana said that the focus for the commemoration was to advocate for strengthened action and cooperation in addressing the world drug problem.
Also drawing from the 2018 National Drug Use Survey, she said that cannabis followed closely by opioids were the most abused substances in Nigeria.
According to her, an estimated 10.8 million Nigerians were reported to have used Cannabis in 2017 while 4.6 million were found to have used opioids for non-medical purposes in the same year.
“These alarming statistics provide only a glimpse into the global drug use situation which recognises the increasing trend of drug use in Nigeria and all over.
“They highlight the growing non-medical use of drugs including cannabis, amphetamines and opioids such as Tramadol, Codeine and Morphine which have become a serious public health concern.”
Thus, there is a strong need for action and collaboration by all.
“Nations are also cognisant of the immense benefits of implementing evidence-based strategies in the prevention and treatment of drug and substance abuse as well as rehabilitation of drug users.
“Concerted efforts are constantly being made to strengthen global action and cooperation towards achieving drug free societies,” she added.
Mrs Unoma Asomugha, the Deputy Director, Narcotics and Controlled Substance Directorate, National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), said that the agency recognises that narcotics and some controlled substances are indispensable for medical use, for industrial purposes or for scientific purposes.
She said that the agency also recognises that they have a very high abuse potential, because they have very high impact on individuals, on public health and on the socio-economic fabric of the nation.
“So we focus on methods to ensure that those that need these products have access but also that drug abuse and drug misuse are minimised.”
Dr Sa’adatu Adamu of ISSUP said that everyone has a role to play in curbing drug use and abuse.
According to her, seeing the individuals who use or abuse drugs first as human beings can help everyone understand the root cause and may be help them through the process and not stigmatise them.
“ISUUP is an organisation that has different people come together, it is a place where we think that everyone is important.
“So, if you are in the mental health field, you have a role to play in the life of someone who is struggling with addiction. If you are also in the counselling field, you have a role to play in the lives of families.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the campaign against drug use and trafficking aims to combat stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs by promoting language and attitudes that are respectful and non-judgmental. (NAN)