Owing to the priority placed on advocacy against drug and substance abuse in the country, the coalition of Pharmacy, comprising pharmacists from different arms of the profession, defied the early morning showers of rain in Lagos on Monday, to embark on a sensitisation walk against substance and drug abuse.
The sensitisation walk, which was one of its kind in recent times, had in attendance, the President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) Mazi (Pharm.) Sam Ohuabunwa; the President, Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPharm) Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi; Vice-President, NAPharm, Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi; Registrar, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) Pharm. Elijah Mohammed; Distinguished Professor of Pharmacy, Cecilia Igilo; Professor Kemi Odukoya; Chairman, NAPharm Committee on Drug and Substance Abuse, Dr Lolu Ojo; Managing Director, World Wide Commercial Ventures, Mr Santosh Kumar, with several others.
The awareness campaign, organised by the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy in collaboration with all other segments of Pharmacy, started from Allen bus stop and was brought to a close at the Ikeja Roundabout, Lagos. Aside from telling residents and traders on the streets about the dangers of drug and substance abuse, the pharmacists distributed leaflets to passers-by, as well as displayed placards with different warnings against drug abuse.
Some of the inscriptions on their placards read: ”It is easier to stay off drugs than to get off drugs”, “Don’t abuse cough syrup with codeine”, “Drug abuse can kill”, “Igbo mimu n’dani lori ru”, “Walk away from drug abuse & drug addiction”, “Drug abuse ruins lives, stay away”, etc.
Addressing pressmen during the walk, the PSN President, Mazi (Pharm.) Sam Ohuabunwa, explained the roles of pharmacists in the management of medicines, stating that they are the primary custodians of medicines, and as such, they have the responsibility to speak against drug abuse and misuse in the society.
“Pharmacists are the ones mandated by law, to take care of medicines and drugs, and all things that affect the human system. Pharmacists are the ones trained, mandated to be custodians of drugs, and therefore, if you have a situation where these items, which we are supposed to superintend over and care for, for the good of patients are now being misuse for different purposes, then we cannot keep mute and be watching, we have to cry out.
“This is why we have been talking in different segments, at the different arm of the Society, and different branches have been speaking about it. Now the Academy of Pharmacy, walking with the totality of PSN are doing this to re-emphasised what have been done in different pockets before now, to say that we pharmacists, stand against drug misuse and drug abuse, in anyway drugs that are made to cure and heal, are being made to harm and destroy”, he noted.
The NAPharm Vice-President, Sir Atueyi, while fielding questions from journalists, harped on the need for illegal dealers of drugs to desist from such act, because they are endangering the health of the populace.
“Many a time, people use drugs for wrong purposes, and that is why we are advocating that people should get proper medical advice, before using prescribed drugs, because drugs are not foods, they are for specific treatments of ailments. In the same vein, people who are not qualified to sell drugs should desist from selling it, because they don’t know the active ingredients, nor the effects of what they are selling to people. By so doing, they are exposing people to dangers of health.
“A lot of people are selling drugs illegally along the streets, at different corners. It is illegal, and they are promoting a lot of dangers to the health of the populace. It should not happen, but you see, when it comes to enforcing the laws, it is not easy to enforce laws on millions of people. People also engage in illegal businesses because the law enforcement agencies cannot cope with the huge problem of the society”, he explained.
For the Chairman, NAPharm Committee on Drug and Substance Abuse, Dr Ojo described the state of drug and substance abuse in the country as being terrible and almost approaching an epidemic proportion.
Ojo who acknowledged that the issue is a global phenomenon calling for urgent attention, appreciated the response by the federal government in setting up a committee headed by Rtd. Gen. Burba Marwa, to look into the case, but noted that there is need to do more to be done, in order to reduce the development to the barest minimum in the country.
According to him : “That is why the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy, has mobilised everyone in Pharmacy, those in the business, industry, hospital, community, academia, importers, manufacturers, ladies, and everyone to be involved.
“What we are doing today is sensitisation and awareness walk, to tell people that drugs are not foods, they are not everyday items to be use indiscriminately, and they are poisons. But when they are used in controlled environments, it confers some benefits. If they are misuse, there is a problem.
Yes, there may be some challenges, there may be the need for you to improve on their performance, but the use of drugs for this purpose will damage your health in the long run. When drugs gets into the human system, they change the pattern of the behaviour of the system. So if you allow drugs to change the behaviour of your system, you be behaving in a way that is not normal. This explains the increase in crime rate, kidnapping, arm robbery, etc. So what do we need to do?
“Government should engage youths with sports, to get them off the streets, and other arrears of work they can be engaged. It is on record that 1.8 million students sat for JAMB, but only about 200 thousands will be granted admission. So what happens to the remaining 1.6 million youths? These are the people on the streets, what other alternate have we have for them? And this is the responsibility of government.
“We are appealing to those in authority, that the position you are holding is a position of trust, use it for the benefit of the society. Again, parents need to monitor their children more, follow them up to adulthood. We need to restrict access to drugs, a situation whereby drugs can be found anywhere, in the market, is not good.
“We are saying that if you are in the business of drugs, you must be under control, and this is what we are saying”, he emphasized.