- Calls for cultural revolution in curbing Substance Abuse
The Medical Director and Chief Executive Officer, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr Olayemi Cecilia Ogun has made a shocking disclosure on the upsurge of substance abuse in the country, saying 80 per cent of males in the hospital’s Short-Stay Ward are affected by substance disorder.
Dr Ogun who mentioned COVID-19 lockdown as one of the factors that promoted the spike in substance abuse, said the ursurge in the abuse of psychoactive drugs was witnessed after the first COVID-19 wave.
A recent national survey of subtance abuse in Nigeria aptly corrobated this development noting gender differences in the distribution of use of some psychoactive drugs, their use being mostly among males.
It stated that the urban-rural differences in the use of psychoactive drugs, with higher rates in the urban areas for some drugs, suggest that urbanity may positively influence the use of drugs, which was observed in the study with the use of alcohol, tranquilisers, heroin, other opiates and cannabis.
The survey identified the most commonly used drugs across the different time periods studied (lifetime, 12-month and 30-day) as mainly ‘licit’ drugs. The use of these drugs may be related to their easy availability, low cost, and the feeling that one is not using anything illegal. The most commonly used ‘illicit’ drug was cannabis, which has continued to feature in Nigeria and some other countries as the most commonly used illicit drug.
Speaking with Pharmanewsonline in an exclusive interview, the FNPH Medical Director also decried the misconception about consumption of alcohol as treatment for COVID-19, saying most local people still live in the erroneous belief that alcohol can cure the infection.
“Our people believe that the best way to kill COVID-19 culturally is by taking hot drink, ‘ogogoro’ which will burn the throat. And then for those of them who are already hooked on drinks, they believe that nothing can happen to them with or without COVID-19.
“What we observed in the hospital is that there is an upsurge in the number of patients with substance disorder. Where we had before as patients Short-Stay Ward, now have over 80 per cent of the males as drug patients. Before now we have a dedicated drug ward, but currently our Short-Stay Ward has been converted to drug ward.
“I don’t think it is just due to COVID-19 alone, I think it is a systematic problem, because the consumption of these sachet hots goes with Indian hemp, smoking and then with the lockdown, the only people they have are all these their counterparts in smoking and betting”, she explained.
She however predicted a looming explosion in patients with substance disorder if nothing is done beyond the normal approach adopted by regulatory agencies like NAFDAC to stem the tide.
She therefore recommended a cultural revolution in addressing the situation, stating that there is need to bring substance abuse advocacy nearer home to the people than the regular approach by agencies.
“We have one problem in the country, everywhere you turn to now, you see these sachet hot drinks, you see women at game centres displaying their wares with their little children almost everywhere in Lagos now.
“Although NAFDAC has promised to face out sachet hot drinks but they are yet to do that.
“This thing is beyond NAFDAC and Neuro-Psychiatric management, there must be a cultural revolution, you talking to you brother and me talking to my sister for a change to take place. People need to be educated about the dangers of drug abuse. The worst thing is that these women selling these sachet hot drinks are always going about with children.
“There is a looming explosion of substance abuse in the country, because what we are seeing now is smaller to what is coming in the future. Those children watching their mothers selling hot drinks will definitely take up the hot drinks in the absence of their moms. In other words, we are raising a generation of drug addicts” the psychiatrist lamented.