The truth that most people would not like to admit is perhaps the fact that Nigeria is swimming in midst of many man-made crises: the economic downturn occasioned by ruthless leadership that has led to the loss of millions of jobs; the hydra-headed insecurity across the country that has left thousands dead and many more displaced, and the upcoming general elections that will soon occupy our minds.
The worst crisis that has little to no attention paid to it with a reaching effect is the rising drug epidemic among the youths in Nigeria.
It is so high that in a decade’s time, Nigeria might have more junkies within the youth age bracket than any other country in Africa.
Presently, there are no official statistics in this regard. The government seems to be sleeping while privately owned organizations are putting themselves at the forefront, waging war against drug abuse among the teens and creating awareness.
However, these efforts have been found not to be enough. Much more is needed and we should all be concerned.
Seated inside a crusty danfo bus on a work day, moving from Rumuokoro to Mile 1, I observed two boys in their early 20s exchange a plastic bottle of coca cola with each other. One sat at the front, nodding to an Afro-pop song that the bus stereo dished out as he discussed with the driver, who in my estimation is also below 30. The other was the conductor of the bus.
He will occasionally look back at the conductor for the exchange of dark the liquid and on and on, the exchange went.
One might think that, perhaps, they were just close friends sharing a bottle of coca cola for the tingling taste associated with the beverage.
However, on the average, there are about 200 milligrams of tramadol popularly referred to as TM dissolved into a bottle of beverage like that with the contents concealed in the coke’s dark colour.
Such a scene as described above happens everyday and everywhere. Our higher institutions have become breeding grounds for these drug abuses.
We are on the threshold to the worst drug epidemic in modern history and we are not doing anything about it.
Codeine, Rephnol and Tramadol have become the new oil in present-day Nigeria, according to a pharmacist who has made millions selling these products to teen addicts.
Pharmaceutical store owners have capitalized on the ever increasing demand for these controlled substances by teens and adults in their 20s to make a fortune in a business that is estimated to be raking in about 50 million dollars per year.
In a bid to make fortune, they discard the fact that these drugs are not sold without a prescription.
As one Pharmaceutical store owner boasted in the midst of his friends at the GRA area of Portharcourt in January:
“We are in the era of new oil and they are not dug from the ground. They are in tablet forms”
There is an increase in school drop out among university students, especially the boys. The nation is grooming a generation that feels that education is a waste.
This, coupled with easy access to controlled drugs portends doom for a country like Nigeria.
Although government agencies have responded by confiscating these controlled drugs from retailers not licensed to sell them, it has made little efforts at monitoring those licensed to sell them and in effect, made smuggling of these drugs a lucrative business with the introduction of middlemen who supply them to those retail outlets leading to a price hike.
The ever-changing price has necessitated a spike in criminal activities among the youths with these young ones willing to do everything possible to fund their addiction to these drugs.
Tramadol is believed to enhance sexual activities among other perceived inducements on the body according to a teen who constantly makes use of it.
The after effect of this constant drug abuse is not just psychological but it has given rise to teen pregnancy and increased cases of HIV /AIDS as these teens engage in the now popular NSA Sex (No Strings Attached).
The government can dust itself up and take a holistic approach to end this growing menace.
There is an urgent need for job creation and reassurance given to these teens on the need to take their education seriously.
The streets, schools and religious institutions should be flooded with awareness about this menace.
The government should begin a crackdown on the merchants of these drugs.
Let us rescue our youths.