How joblessness, frustration pushed many Nigerian youths into drugs

By Odunewu Olusegun

Drugs such as tramadol, Indian hemp, Codeine and several other substances are abused by millions of youths in Nigeria in search of a fix or a release from poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunity.

Indian hemp, otherwise known as Marijuana, seems to be the most popular among the addicted youths.

Marijuana has picked some local names in different parts of Nigeria. These include igbo, ganja, kukuye, morocco, dangerous plants, weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, devil’s plant and a lot more.

The highest levels of drug use were among those aged 25-39 years which we can regard as youths, according to a survey in 2018 the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse (CRISA) with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

At various spots, in public glares, youths turn out in large numbers every morning to have their ‘hemp breakfast’, daring the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

At one of the spots in Ipodo area of Ikeja, Ahmed, 28 said he took drugs out of boredom arising from joblessness since he graduated from the Lagos state Polytechnic, five years ago.

“The reason why I started smoking is because I wasn’t employed. I had nothing to do. I was just moving around my area with friends. Some of us were selling petroleum to try and make some money but the police would stop us.  So many people are using drugs. Old guys, young boys. They are all using it because there is nothing to do here. So we thought it must be good. That is why we started”.

Speaking against drug abuse in Lagos, a consultant psychiatrist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Ladipo Adepoju, said that he had handled many mental cases in his career that were fallouts of drug abuse, which often led to mental distortion.

He stated that the effects of drug abuse and wrong use do not only take a toll on the individuals and their families but on the society at large. He said many Nigerians, particularly youngsters with brilliant minds who could have positively affected the society, have been wasted as a result of drug abuse.

“I have been a psychiatrist for more than 20 years. Talking from my experience, having worked in the northern and southern parts of Nigeria, l know what l mean when l describe it as a very troubling issue in society. It has wrecked many families and turned some to paupers,” Adepoju said.

On why drug misuse has continued to be prominent among youths, he said the diverse man-made challenges in Nigeria could be a strong factor. He added that the high level of unemployment was also playing negative roles in the lives of youths.

He said it was unfortunate that many drug barons and syndicates were feeding fat on the business but destroying people and the society. He called on all adults to use every platform available to them to keep discouraging drug abuse.

A pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Akintola Samuel, admonished Nigerians, especially the youth, to shun drug abuse and all forms of violence that could jeopardize their future.

Even as he submitted that smoking hemp was not solely a Nigerian problem but a worldwide challenge, he lamented that the major victims of these problems have remained the youth.