Recent reports on the confession of Chidinma Adaora Ojukwu, the 300-Level UNILAG student who allegedly murdered the CEO of Super TV, Usifo Ataga, summarises the depth some young people have fallen into. The young lady confessed that she “stabbed him under the influence of drugs and alcohol.”
The news, like a thunderbolt, brought the menace of drug abuse and addictions to the forefront of social discussion. The consumption and dependence rate on drugs and other chemical substances is quite alarming and increasingly prevalent among youths in Nigeria’s higher institutions of learning. Even with the presence of a law enforcement agencies such as the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the menace is still far from being controlled.
Drug abuse is the excessive use of psychoactive drugs, such as alcohol, pain-relief medications, or illegal hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), psychoactive drugs are substances that affect mental processes when administered into one’s system. The effects could be in the areas of perception, consciousness, cognition, or mood and emotions. Within the society, drug abuse can lead to physical, social, emotional, and job-related problems. Drug abuse gradually leads to addiction. When anything is being abused, it will get to a stage where addiction will set in because the brain is wired to make one want to repeat any feel-good experience. So one is motivated to take more.
Addiction is a condition that affects the brain and behaviour. When one is addicted to drugs, one cannot resist the urge to use them, no matter how much harm the drug may cause. This is why smokers still smoke despite the warnings written boldly on the packages that smokers are liable to die young. Drug addiction is not just about heroin, cocaine, or other illegal drugs. One can also get addicted to alcohol, nicotine, sleep, anti-anxiety medications, and other legal substances.
According to a research study in 2018, the problem of drug abuse and addiction is at an epidemic level in the United States. Opioids play a major role in two-thirds of all drug overdose deaths in America.
Young people who persistently abuse substances often experience an array of problems, including academic difficulties, health-related problems (including mental health), poor peer relationships, and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Drug abuse among youths can also lead to serious mental disorders or permanent irreversible damage to the brain or nervous system. Brain damage among youths who abuse drugs includes brain shrinkage, impaired learning abilities, amnesia and memory problems, impaired reasoning, perception, and intuition; increased or decreased socialisation, and changes in sexual desire.
According to the statistical data made available by the World Health Organization (WHO), drugs and other substances such as alcohol, tobacco and cocaine are the root causes of many road accidents which have claimed lives and the high rate of sickness suffered by our societies today.
The more disturbing fact is that there is a geometric rise in the use of drugs and substances among women. According to a documentary by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), about three million bottles of codeine are consumed daily in Nigeria, and out of these figures, more than half is consumed in Kano and Jigawa State mainly by women.
Lately, the news of Miss Chidimma Ojukwu’s deadly attack on fifty-three-year-old Usifo Ataga has preoccupied social media and has gained massive space over the past two or three weeks. She told journalists that she was able to do most things she did through the influence of drugs and alcohol and that Mr. Usifo was weak as a result of the alcohol and drugs they consumed together. This is a girl of just 21 years old who has been exposed to different dangerous substances at a young age. Now imagine her level of addiction when she gets to be 40-years old.
During the interrogation, she revealed that she smoked and drank heavily before the murder incidence. It became clear that she is not new to this lifestyle which has now landed her in deep trouble. Who is really to blame for the menace of drug abuse in the country? Is it the parents or the society? Peer group, the environment, or the upbringing? Drug abuse can be caused by many factors such as family, friends, and persistent exposure to abusive substances.
Regrettably, the music industry has contributed as well to these problems. Most Nigerian musicians, especially Hip-Hop artistes, are young people. Their music are mostly created in the studio under the influence of drugs which they regard as “enablers” or “inspiration motivators”, which influences them to connect to their “inner beings and make their songs blow”.
It doesn’t end in the studio. Many of these artistes go on social media to flaunt pictures of their intake of drugs and alcohol, without caring what the world will say or what message is being passed to the younger generation. Nigerian music stars who are at the forefront of promoting drug abuse include, but are not limited to, Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid, Naira Marley, and Olamide. The controversial singer, Afeez Fashola, aka Naira Marley, is known for consistently feeding his millions of followers with his deviant lifestyle. His social media posts are not weird anymore to many of his ardent followers, who refer to themselves as ‘Marlians’. He confirms his addiction to marijuana at every given opportunity. He tells his combined followers of 7.6 million on social media platforms – Twitter and Instagram – that “I don’t do drugs, I just smoke weed.”
This is a singer whose lyrics and songs glorify sex, violence, and drugs. He once posted a picture of himself and his gang wrapping marijuana with a caption, “No permission, we do it with no permission.” This is an artist whose followers are made up of young teens and adults, many of who see him as a role model.
Just like his mentor, Fela Kuti, Grammy award nominee, Damini Ogulu, aka Burna Boy, doesn’t feel guilty smoking in his music videos and public places. In 2013, to show his love for marijuana, the ‘African Giant’ dropped a special tune titled, ‘Smoke Some Weed’ off his album, L.I.F.E. In the song, he affirmed his affection for smoking saying, “I need to sing this song, ’cause marijuana has never done me wrong. I have some marijuana in my house that I would like to smoke with you girl…”
On May 4, 2020, the 29-year-old singer caused a stir on social media as he was seen smoking in the presence of his mother and manager, Bose Ogulu. In the Instagram live video, the Port Harcourt-born artist and his mother were dancing to one of Wizkid’s songs as he was recorded exchanging “blunts” with a friend. This was not his first attempt, as in the same year, a picture of him smoking in the presence of his father also appeared on social media.
In the same vein, Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, aka Wizkid, a 30-year-old singer, also derives joy in showing off his smoking habits arbitrarily on the internet – most especially on Instagram. The list of musicians seems endless. The same goes for Nollywood stars, with many caught in the web of playing characters that see them interpreting excessive smoking habits on screens.
Movies and entertainment materials are veritable tools for the transfer of ideas and the promotion of alternative lifestyles. Studies reveal that seeing people use drugs or smoke in movies proportionally leads to young teens aspiring to smoke or get involved in drug initiation. Recently, the Chief Managing Director of Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr. Cecilia Olayemi Ogun, disclosed that 80% of her patients are drug addicts. There is a great need to control and put in check the resurgent drug menace which has become a pandemic ravaging the teeming young generation. Everybody should be involved in the process of eradicating the use of drugs. Starting from the family, parents should guide and educate their children properly. The religious and community leaders should not be left out in this campaign. Various youth groups should also use their initiative to positivity to move youths away from drug abuse.
Government should also ensure that the distribution of ethical drugs should be brought under regulatory control. They should empower drug regulatory agencies to discharge their duties and responsibilities adequately. The pharmaceutical industry must also be very vigilant in handling ethical drugs that are sensitive and prone to abuse by youths. The consequences of drug abuse are quite devastating for individuals involved as well as the family, community, and the nation at large. We must curb this menace before it is too late.