Nigerian Youths In Search Of Intoxicated Substances: The Future In Danger

Source: Kareem Abdulrasaq || Assistant Research Officer, Grassroots Development & Advocacy Centre Ilorin.

The use of intoxicated substances among Nigerian youths today has been a real social problem, in which children from both rich and poor background deeply in it. Since the time immemorial man has always involves in search of substances that keep them alive and enhance their power. These substances are either sourced from plant or animal parts.

According to the oxford medical dictionary substance is material in which anything is made or constituted. It is also a matter which has a specific composition and specific properties. A lot of substances are today being abused by the Nigerian youth ranging from alcohol, drug and lysergic acid. Even animal and human waste products are being abused.

The same dictionary refer to substance of abuse as non clinical, recreational, use of pharmacologically active substances such that continued use result in adverse physiological or psychological effect. A number of reports have identified substance commonly abuse as alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, Ecstasy, heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and organic solvents (by inhalation). These substances are taken by people for different reasons. While some use them for medicinal purpose other use them to get high.

The purpose of using these substances other than therapeutic or industrial purpose upon which some of them are meant has become a source of worry. Although, government has taken drastic effort toward mitigating their illegal use and proliferation, in recent years new substance of abuse such as vapour from pi latrine, gutter, and stagnant dirty water, excreta of animal (e.g lizard dung) is gaining popularity and being used by the children and adult to get high.

What type of worlds are we living in? Are these people not aware of the health implication of their action? It must be noted that there are three major categories of people who abuse various forms of substances: the upper class (i.e the elitist mostly the aristocracy), the average middle class and the lower class (i.e the poor mostly the majority).

People in the first categories are much addicted to drug like cocaine amphetamine, depressant (barbiturate and alcohol). The middle class are more addicted to narcotics (heroin and morphine) and hallucinogen (cannabis, marijuana, LSD, codeine and alcohol) while the poor are identified with various forms substances ranging from ogogoro, glue, mandara sukudai, gegemu among others.

The disparity in the nature of substance taken by Nigerians may not unconnected with the level of their income, although the alcohol taken by these people vary in price and quality. It is interesting to note that, one can move from a mere mandara consumer to higher drug such as marijuana, and then cocaine depending on the availability of the resources (money and influence) and the reverse is also possible, a middle class person may later become ogogoro or solution consumer having experience financial deficiency. This a true picture of the Nigerian drug abuser. Therefore, immediate environment, pear groups, family background, and accessibility of the substances are also responsible for the nature of substance intake by the youths.

The most prevalent drug of abuse is common among the poor, both the young and the old who at different time ensure consistency in the search for substances that could change their mood. The substances that keep them fit. Substance that could make them work for many hours without the feeling of tiredness. It is against this background some people whose work are stressful namely, bricklayer, earth digger, load carrier, mechanics, sand miners, rock brokers, wood carrier at the sawmill, civil construction labourer, scavenger, tout, as well as jobless youth are much more identified with organic solvent (petrol, air fresher, gum, ink, paint thinner, insecticide, gasoline, nail polish removal, glue, rubber solution, etc) and unconventional drug substances ranging from lizard dung, vapour from the pit latrine to leaves. All these have become inherent and little or no consideration is given to its adverse effect. Today little children know the substance he /she would take to get high. This trend is dangerous to the future of the country. Since some of them take substances which are capable of killing them unexpectedly.

The question as to why average Nigeria youth found these measure as part of their life is a source of worry. According to a report from Thisday in May 2016, over 40 percent of Nigeria youth engage substance of abuse. This has become burden not only to the immediate community but the government. Since some Nigerians both the rich and the poor try to promote their personal interest at the expense of the other. With their destructive mindset, every effort is often made to see that such interest is promoted. It is against this background every substance at their disposal is taken to achieve such interest. This justified why area boys and political thugs are often involved in violent act. They take any substance that could give them power and carry out any destructive act against any perceived opponent. This is done with little or consideration to their immediate environment.

In recent years many Nigerian youth take drug to allow them last many hours during sexual intercourse with their partners. They believed ladies enjoy it most. Most ladies are less concern about what men take to meet them as long as they are satisfied. This trend is worrisome. Apart from the fact that, it created a culture of “drug sex”, making it a lifestyle, men now see as necessity, the need to get high before meeting their partner in bed. The question is not about its implication on the increase in the price of certain substance; gun, ogogoro, etc. but the nature of child to be given birth looking it from religion angle, the scientific proof is controversial. Although some ladies did not like their partners getting high before having sex, this only applicable to only few of them given the generation of ladies in Nigeria today.

Therefore some tribes prefer the use of solution as a substance that gives them strength especially during the course of demonstrating their might in choosing wife. This occurs during festive period of some tribes whose men had to undergone a severe punishment of torture involving lashing with big stick before a new bribe is given. This practice is common in the northern part of the country. Hence, they took sophisticated substances capable of keeping them alive, withstand the pain and last through the ceremony. With this they often depend on organic solvent such as gum, solution, and shoe polish among other considering its cheapness. This explains why these substances are always very scarce during the period due to high demand.

However, most of these substances of abuse are also perpetrated due to certain interconnected factors ranging from high level of ignorance, personal defect, lack of fund, poor functioning of agencies, lack of proactive measure against abuser by the appropriate authority. Since some of these substances are un-conventional; the position of law in its consumption and regulation is misleading. Are substances of abuse such as air fresher, lizard dung, rubber solution, petrol, kerosene, glue, gum, shoe polish, pit latrine vapour fall within the definition of drug and capture by Nigeria law? The applicability of Nigeria law on this depends on the angle one look at it. Section 10, 11, and 12 of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, CAP N30 Law of Federal Republic of Nigeria (LFRN), 2004 emphasized more on narcotic, hallucinogen and cocaine. What is however clear is that many youths sought to escape from the drug law thereby changed to substance capable of getting them high not regulated by law. This is to prevent being arrested and be able to get and use them anytime without fair of security agents. Some even claim that what they take is not drug. Hence, it is now left to the Nigeria policy and law maker to establish their innocence. The truth is that the interpretation of the of the word “drug” under section 31 of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control Act Cap N1 LFRN, 2004 clearly covers all substance of abuse (animal, mineral, or plant origin) without any ambiguity whatsoever. Many of the youths lack knowledge of this provision.

Although, Nigeria is growing but one must not forget the fact that, a growing country and economic need a corresponding growing mind that see beyond the present moment. The enforcement agency has also been accused of drug abuse, evidence shows that, some security agents on the road are often on drug especially alcohol. Having been addicted with certain drugs, they did not see beyond servicing their selfish need. What policy do you want to formulate or implement when you are on drug? What type of law did you wants to see implemented when the brain is already being distorted. Are we really helping to move the country forward? Everybody is guilty of drug addict, the youth who discover the new substance of abuse, the government who is slow to understand the trend in the substance being abused, the media and NGOs who have not been proactive in their enlightenment campaign against the danger of taking such substances. The religion leaders who are always very concern about the improvement in the money received in their respective places of worship given little priority about the unlawful substance being abused by their followers.

Things are not going very well and the young fellows are not only becoming weak; they are dying of unknown diseases. This is withering away our value system, creating demographic lost and labour scarcity. These are the same people needed to keep the economic going. They are needed to ensure effective economic recovery. If average Nigerian youths cannot sit and think for themselves because of addiction to drug or other substances, how could they contribute to the socio-economic well being of the state? They will never last long. They developed immune system defect, hallucination, respiratory failure, insomnia, urinal defection, neurotoxicity or cancer, reproductive, liver and kidney damages, etc. According to former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, “drugs are tearing apart our societies, spawning crime, spreading disease and killing our youth and our future”.

Some have become professionals who discover and sell various substances of getting high. Every day they discovered new substances capable of intoxication through relentless effort and experiment of all forms of substances; leaves, animal products, chemical, etc. at their disposal. In the course of this search, some have run mad, others have dejected from the family. Some are so much addicted to the vapour from the pit latrine and dirty gutter to the extent that a day cannot pass without being inhaled. It needs to be noted here that pit latrine contain various forms of virus, bacteria, and fungus, inhaling it allows the transfer of pathogen into human body. The implication is that this causes lifetime diarrhea, and intestinal worm. Some of the addict believes it helps to overcome worry, forget frustration and give them energy.

The question as to why this has become habit may not unconnected with lack of appropriate measure against the use of such substance as a means of getting high. For instance, youth are not being counsel on the implication of taking dangerous substance in their body. There is no identifiable counseling center in many Nigeria communities. Those controls by the religion groups are either ineffective or impaired. This is because many of those who refer to themselves as counselors are either afraid to say the truth or not serve by examples. Some of them are not professional counselors. Our society is going into the state of collapsed with increase level of drug addict among youths. The elder are not also serving by example. Today many children became drug addict because they follow the trait of their brothers, religion leaders and friends. The laissez faire attitude of parents cannot also be ignored, it contribute a lot in explaining why their wards take air fresher, kerosene, etc. to get high.

Therefore, since there is no known campaign about the intake of some of the new substances of abuse stated above in many of our communities, many children did not see them as immoral. There is need for effective collaboration among the stakeholders: the media, government, NGOs and community leaders on the need to extend their advocacy campaign on substance of abuse beyond alcohol and marijuana to other substances not seen by the youth as immoral or regulated by the law. The reality is that, the abuser of these substances did not see those them as something that could destroy their lives. They saw it as fun and innovation. This has become a lifestyle. Imagine the discovery of lizard dung and air fresher. How can Nigeria develop with this? It seems to me that most of these youths have given up Nigeria because Nigeria has given up with them given the level of their poverty. Until the government address the level of poverty among youths this trend cannot stop. This is because there action is poverty driven.

Lastly, most of the unconventional drugs and volatile solvents have not received enough attention by the local researchers, government and the public. There is need to put more effort in carry out research on these aspect of abused substance. This is necessary to preserve the dignity of the youths and create enabling environment for emerging generation.

Kareem Abdulrasaq;
Assistant Research Officer, Grassroots Development and Advocacy Centre Ilorin

[email protected]
In recent past substance such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana were major patronized drugs, today people mostly the poor are moving away from them to amore accessible substances. Mainly pit latrine odour, air fresher, petrol kerosene, shoe polish, paint thinner, solution, glue, recine, ogogoro among others what might cause these shift in recent month might unconnected with high standard of living, government regulation, ignorance, morning others. Their addiction to this sustenance may due to the enforcing properties and ability to activate their reward system.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."