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Drug Abuse Endangers Mental Health, National Security, NAFDAC DG Warns

Prof Moji Adeyeye, Director General of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDA), has warned that a youth who grows up in stressful circumstances may acquire psychological disorders and may become dangerous as an adult.

She noted with dismay that conditions related to Covid-19 are known to have increased economic deprivation and feelings of social isolation, which are factors that can contribute to increased drug use.

She made this known while speaking at the maiden Annual National Security Summit in Abuja with the theme “Covid-19, Drug Abuse, Mental Health: Implications to National Security.”

Dr Musa Umar, NAFDAC’s Director of Narcotics and Controlled Substances, who represented the director General , who said the theme, “Drug Abuse, Mental Health: Implications to National Security,” was appropriate and in keeping with current national and international realities.

In a statement issued by NAFDAC’s Resident Media Consultant, Sayo Akintola, on Sunday in Abuja, Adeyeye avers that any society seeking to achieve adequate military security against the backdrop of acute food shortages, population explosion, low productivity and per capita income, high rate of illiteracy, and a fragile infrastructure/technical infrastructure will fail.

Drug addiction is both a health and a social problem, she says, adding that combating the threat necessitates a balanced approach that addresses all parts of the complicated interaction between lack of opportunity, drug misuse, mental health, and national security.

‘’Today, security encompasses all the interconnected domains of economic self-reliance, social cohesiveness, and political stability, in addition to the physical safety and survival of a state from internal or foreign threats.

It touches on how people might live long and healthy lives,” she explained.

‘’Human development entails expanding people’s options for living a long and healthy life, acquiring knowledge, and having access to the resources necessary for a reasonable standard of living” (UNDP, 1990:10).

Many additional opportunities remain inaccessible on a long-term basis in the absence of these critical options.”

The head of NAFDAC noted that human growth has always been linked to the protection of lives and property, which is why people who framed our constitution deemed security the most important responsibility the government has to its inhabitants.

She went on to say that a lack of opportunities, inequality, poverty, and mental health issues are all established reasons that encourage people to take drugs, emphasizing that the illicit drug economy in poor and marginalized metropolitan areas is typically driven by poverty.

According to Prof. Adeyeye, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development plainly states that there can be no sustainable development without peace, and there can be no sustainable development without peace.

Despite the fact that drug abuse is not specifically mentioned in the Goals and Targets, she pointed out that it obviously overlaps with aim 3.5 – Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance misuse, particularly narcotic drug addiction and hazardous alcohol use.

“The goal is good health and well-being,” she said.

She went on to say that the effects of poverty may be devastating, especially because the poor have little access to healthcare, and that the global picture of drug use is complicated by the fact that many people who use drugs, whether occasionally or on a regular basis, are polydrug users (using more than one substance concurrently or sequentially, usually with the intention of enhancing or countering the effects of another drug).

The non-medical use of prescription drugs (e.g., opioids and benzodiazepines), as well as the use of amphetamines or new psychoactive substances in place of or in combination with drugs like cocaine or heroin, blurs the line between users of a particular substance and paints a picture of interconnected epidemics of drug use and related health consequences, according to the NAFDAC DG.

Prof Adeyeye stated in the 2018 Drug Use in Nigeria Survey that 14.4% of the population, or 14.3 million persons, took drugs in Nigeria, compared to a global yearly prevalence of any drug use of 5.6 percent among the population in 2016.

She went on to say that the survey also found that the highest-level drug was among individuals aged 25 to 39 years, which is a cause for concern because this is the most productive age range in Nigeria’s young population.

She cautioned, “The youths have a lot of energy and are easily misled, and their lives are wasted along religious and ethnic lines by ignorant priests and mischievous individuals.”

She did warn, however, that drug abuse is threatening a significant portion of Nigeria’s population, with the potential to negatively affect state capacity and contribute to poverty, state failure, and national destabilisation, and that co-morbidities such as HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, and tuberculosis are a real threat to the economy in terms of lost productivity and declining quality of life, she added.

The NAFDAC chief stated that cannabis is the most commonly used substance, followed by opioids (such as tramadol and codeine), and that 25% of drug users are female (about 3.4 million), with 20% of drug users being dependent (approximately 2.9m).

‘’Around 376,000 people (0.4% of the population aged 15 to 64) were projected to be high-risk drug users in January 2018, defined as people who had used opioids, crack/cocaine, or amphetamines in the previous 12 months and had used those drugs at least 5 times in the previous thirty days.

Persons who inject drugs account for 21% of high-risk drug users, or about 80,000 people (PWID).

The bulk (78%) were men, but one in every five people who inject narcotics is a woman,” she laments.

Prof. Adeyeye stated that injecting drug users are among the most marginalized and disadvantaged drug users, citing poor health outcomes, including a higher risk of premature death, high rates of potentially life-threatening infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis, and a higher risk of both fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses.

Despite the fact that around 40% of high-risk drug users requested treatment, she said that getting help was difficult and expensive.

She went on to say that the stigma connected with drug use is another deterrent to getting treatment, as people who need help are labeled as unfit.

‘’This thinking must shift, and society must regard the drug addict as a sick person who requires therapy rather than a criminal who must be punished.”

She also cautions that by 2030, the world would have seen a 40% increase in drug users, with the increase likely to be more pronounced in Africa because the population is younger and drug use is higher among young people than among elderly people.

The head of NAFDAC also noted that Africa’s population is expected to rise faster than that of other regions.

Nigerians, according to the NAFDAC DG, are largely self-sufficient and prefer to treat themselves, particularly as professional medical treatment is increasingly becoming out of reach for the majority of the population.

“We are encouraged to self-diagnose and self-medicate because of persuasive television advertisements and the availability of information on the internet, which outline symptoms and assure us that such and such can be easily remedied by simply taking such a brand of medication,” she said, adding that the public is thus reassured into complacency by thinking that the legality of these medications ensues their use.

According to Prof. Adeyeye, having a mental disease does not imply being violent or dangerous, but persons who are suffering from untreated or inadequately managed mental health disorders may self-medicate with illicit or prescribed drugs and may be willing participants in criminal activity.

“That is why early and effective treatment of mental health illnesses is so important for society’s health and well-being,” she continued.

She went on to say that internationally, only one out of every six individuals who require treatment receives it, with Africa having a ratio of one out of every 18 people.

Prof Adeyeye believes that a country’s healthcare spending reflects its commitment to improving its health indicators, and that any country that does not invest in its people’s healthcare will face issues such as diminishing productive capacity, poor maternal health, and high child mortality.

She stated that NAFDAC’s experience reveals that corruption and unethical practices impede success in combating the diversion of restricted pharmaceuticals to illicit channels and abuse, resulting in laws not being implemented and offenders not being prosecuted and convicted for their crimes.

In most cases, she bemoaned the slowness of justice and the ineffectiveness of penalty in deterring repeat offenses.

‘’However, in Nigeria, drug treatment treatments are primarily accessible in tertiary hospitals.

Eleven hospitals in the country’s six geopolitical zones have already been refurbished to function as Model Drug Treatment Centers.

Furthermore, certain non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and faith-based organizations provide limited services,” she added with a ray of optimism.

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