“In addition to the treatment and counseling centres in about 30 NDLEA commands nationwide, there are two model rehabilitation centres almost ready for commissioning in Enugu and Abuja any moment from now.” The aforementioned authoritative information is the most current report on the status of the well measured plan by the NDLEA to set up rehabilitation centres in Nigeria to embark on massive drug reduction and rehabilitation of addicts countrywide.
This intelligence is the trigger for this essay which centres on the psychology of rehabilitating addicts who are hooked on to hard drugs and illicit substances.
But first, we need to establish a nexus between rehabilitation of drug addicts and their ability to maintain sanity and become meaningful citizens of their communities thereafter. We will begin by reading a citation from the essay by an expert on the nexus between drugs and mental health vis-a-vis the psychology of drug addiction.
PSYCHOLOGY OF DRUG ADDICTION: Miss. Ujunwa Fidel, is the founder of a group of pyschologists in Owerri, Imo State. She has had the opportunity during her scholarship to undertake the analytical observations of drug addiction amongst young people and she has pieced together what she considers as the psychological effects of getting hooked in drug addiction and habitual intakes of illicit substances.
She shared her perspectives with this writer and affirmed that with the chronic use of the substance over time,the brains circuit adapt and become less sensitive to dopamine,achieving their pleasurable sensation becomes increasingly important.
She averred that Drug Addiction is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drugs.
Drug misuse, according to her, includes using illegal substance such as Anabolic Steroids, Club drugs, Heroine, Marijuana e.t.c.
One key aspect of addiction Psychology is the role of biological factors,Genetics,brain chemistry and neurobiology, even as she asserted authoritatively that some people may have a genetic predisposition to addiction,while others may be more sensitive to the effect of drugs due to difference in brain chemistry.
Quoting a study by Megan Bears Agustyn,Terence P,Thornberry and Kimberly .l. Henry published in Feb 2019 in the journal Development and Psychopathology, she said, there is a body of evidence that shows how child abuse is passed down through generation through greater alcohol and drug usage.
On the diverse Psychological causes of drug abuse, she said these includes: Peer pressure, Emotional stress, Anxiety, Depression, Environmental stress.
Some of the mental effects of drug addictions includes: Anxiety or Paranoia, Depression, memory loss, psychosis, personality change.
People struggling with alcohol are looked down upon and shunned by the society,the assumptions is that drug abuse is their only problem and they are just hurting themselves.
Treatment of drug addiction is by involving a therapist and by addressing both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction.
The next stage is to look at Drugs and mental health as captured in a well written piece published in www.mentalhealth.org.uk.
The author asked why people take drugs? And how can recreational drugs affect my mental health?
And on getting support, here is the writer’s perspective:
The author then responded by affirming as follows: “When we talk about drugs on this page, we’re referring to recreational drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin, as well as alcohol, tobacco and some prescribed medicines if they are misused. Drugs may be legal, illegal or controlled substances (only legal if you have a prescription for them).
Why do people take drugs?
People take drugs for many different reasons. You may begin out of curiosity, rebelliousness, or because your friends take them. You may enjoy taking them and want to repeat the experience. You may take drugs when you’re unhappy, stressed or trying to cope with problems in your life. If you have a mental health diagnosis, you may use drugs to help you cope with the symptoms.
Drugs can act as a temporary prop to get you through difficult times. However, drugs can make difficult feelings and emotions even worse. And in the long term, any feelings of relief won’t last. You may find yourself using more and more drugs to deal with your problems and risk becoming dependent on them – which can create new problems for you.
How can recreational drugs affect my mental health?
There are different ways drugs can affect your mental health. For some people, taking drugs can lead to long-term mental health problems.
Regular cannabis use can increase your risk of anxiety or depression. There’s also a link between using stronger cannabis and developing psychosis or schizophrenia. The Rethink website has more information on cannabis and mental health.
Stimulant drugs can make you feel depressed, anxious and paranoid. Cocaine – a type of stimulant – can make previous mental health problems recur and trigger psychosis and schizophrenia. Ecstasy users can experience memory problems.
Hallucinogenic drugs such as magic mushrooms can make any mental health issues worse. They can make you feel detached from your surroundings and cause flashbacks, which can be frightening or distressing.
Mixing it with alcohol or drugs can be dangerous or even fatal if you take medication. Mind has more information about the possible effects of mixing different drugs.
Still dwelling on the need to get support to overcome drug addiction, the author wrote as follows:
If drug use affects your mental health, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can either speak to your GP or contact a local NHS drug treatment service. If you’re having trouble finding the right sort of help, visit the Frank website for free practical advice.
Be honest about your drug use. It may be difficult to talk about, but your treatment is likely to be more successful if your doctor or support worker has all the information about what you take, how often and how it affects you.
You may be offered talking therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). It’s unlikely you’ll be offered medication for any mental health problems caused by your drug use. For example, antidepressants won’t help with depression caused by taking ecstasy, and anti-psychotics won’t help with psychosis caused by cannabis use. But if you already had a mental health problem before you started taking drugs, you may be given medication to treat it.
You may be offered help from drug treatment services to stop taking drugs or alcohol.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also says you shouldn’t be turned away from mental health support (www.mentalhealth.org.uk).
In Nigeria, drug addicts have not been abandoned to roam the streets wallowing in poverty, deprivation and danger. The addicts are benefitting from the expertise in rehabilitation and other post-addiction programmes carefully packaged and implemented by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) which realistically commenced immediately the current charismatic Chairman and chief executive of NDLEA Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa assumed office few years back and assembled a management team composed of tested and trusted technocrats and bureaucrats committed to the mandates of NDLEA.
As part of the efforts by this forward looking publicly funded agency to treat the high number of persons suffering drug addiction in the country, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA has started implementing mechanisms for the establishment of six standard rehabilitation centres, one in each geo-political zone of Nigeria. As aforementioned, so far two are at almost the completion stage.
This was disclosed in Abuja on 27th October 2021 by the Chairman/Chief Executive of the NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) at the 5th Biennial National Symposium on Drugs and Drug Policy in Nigeria organised by the Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse (CRISA).
Speaking as Special Guest of Honour at the symposium, Gen. Marwa said “Substance use and abuse around the world including Nigeria is on the increase in terms of the proportion of the world’s population. Findings from the National Drug Use Survey (2018) conducted by the UNODC revealed that 14.4% or 14.3 million Nigerians aged 15 – 64 years had used a psychoactive substance in the past year for non-medical purposes, meaning that One in Seven persons has used some substances other than alcohol and tobacco. More worrisome is the finding that among every four drug users in Nigeria, one is a woman. Above findings of the survey by UNODC give a troubling portrait of drug abuse in Nigeria and we can no longer live in denial that Nigeria has a thriving illicit drug culture.”
He said as part of efforts to stem the tide, the Agency has proposed the construction of six standard rehabilitation centres across the six geo-political zones in the country beginning from next year. He said three of the centres would start next year as already proposed in the 2022 budget.
According to him, “There is no doubt that Substance use impacts negatively on the individual, family and the society in general. Substance abuse affects the physical, social and psychological levels of the user and family members. Evidence has shown that COVID-19 infections are higher or more common with people diagnosed with Substance Use Disorders (SUD) hence addiction care must be reinforced in order to avoid complications of SUD and COVID-19
“Reducing the demand for illicit drugs in the society depends to a large extent on the successful treatment of existing drug users. This fact accounts for the shift in global drug policy viz the treatment of drug problems as a public health issue. Consequently, we have operationalised our Standard Practice and Policy Guidelines, a treatment and rehabilitation document developed in conjunction with UNODC. The document, like a field manual, provides synergy among our counsellors and further boosts our capability at treatment and rehabilitation.”
Other dignitaries who spoke at the event include Hon. Onofiok Luke, Chairman House of Reps Committee on Judiciary; Prof Isidore Obot, Executive Director, CRISA; Representatives of EU, UNODC and Prof. Ibrahim Abdu Wakawa who delivered the keynote address among others. Femi Babafemi Director of Media and publicity signed the statement dated October 27th 2021.
Lastly, we will consult data on the statistics of drug abusers and their demographics so we conclude by affirming the support of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA to government’s determination to rid the country of hard drugs. We must commend president Bola Ahmed Tinubu for letting the Marwa-led NDLEA to continue to combat the menace of hard drugs in our country. Then we need to conclude by looking at the statistics of drug abusers in Nigeria.
Speaking about statistics of drug abusers in the country, it is important to stress that Nigeria, EU and UNODC released the first-ever National Drug Use Survey on 30.01.2019.
The maiden tripartite report indicated that the number of drug users in Nigeria was then estimated at 14.4 per cent or 14.3 million people aged between 15 and 64 years according to the results of the National Drug Use Survey released on the aforementioned date in Abuja.
The data suggested that the prevalence of past year drug use in Nigeria is more than twice the global average of 5.6 per cent.
Based on data collected from 38,850 respondents in the household survey and 9,344 high risk drug users across all states of the country, the report provides for the first time, robust data on the prevalence of drug use in Nigeria at the national level and also by geo-political zones and states.
The report shows that there is a gap in meeting the needs for treatment and care for people with drug use disorders. With close to 3 million Nigerians living with some level of drug dependence, the extremely limited availability of drug counselling and treatment services exacerbates this health crisis.
The findings of the first ever large scale nation-wide survey to examine the extent and patterns of drug use in Nigeria were released by Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Minister of State for Health; Brigadier General Buba Marwa (retired), Chair of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse. Incidentally, General Marwa became the Head of NDLEA about two years back and has kick-started some of Africa’s biggest and most inspiring drug rehabilitation institutions spread across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria.
“Some of the findings of the survey presented on the aforementioned date are striking and alarming and call for concerted efforts to mitigate the negative consequences of this rising menace on the health, socio-economic and security of our nation” said Dr. Osagie Ehanire in his remarks. While noting the considerable work already being done in the country to mitigate the challenges that drug use poses to Nigerians, he welcomed the opportunity to strengthen drug demand reduction strategies with a focus on evidence-based drug use prevention, treatment in the new edition of the National Drug Control Master Plan for the period 2020 to 2024, currently being formulated.
The report elucidates the true extent of prescription opioids use– mainly tramadol and cough syrups for non-medical purposes; with 4.6 million people using these in the past year in Nigeria. This places Nigeria among the countries with high estimates of non-medical opioid use globally. While cannabis is the most widely used drug globally and in Nigeria, use of opioids are responsible for most of the negative health impacts of drug use.
In her remarks Ms. Miwa Kato said that any response on prescription opioids should be mindful of the “need to recognise that they have a legitimate medical use”. She added that there is a need to have a nuanced approach to the issue and that it is “important to ensure that such prescription opioids are made readily available to those who have a medical need”, while ensuring adequate controls to reduce their misuse are in place.
The UNODC Director then also mentioned that UNODC looks forward to working with the Government of Nigeria as it continues in its efforts to “employ a balanced approach to drug control … (a strategy that) could not only increase access to drug treatment services, including for women, but also shift law enforcement responses away from the arrest of drug users to focus on targeting mid to high level drug traffickers.”
It therefore follows that it is sound logic to conclude by affirming that taking drug abusers out of their bad habits is not only salutary and a patriotic service to those Nigerians abusing hard drugs but is a service towards protecting the national security interest of Nigeria. It is also a great effort to mitigate and minimise the heightened state of insecurity since drug addiction is one factor that instigates social and sophisticated crimes including terrorism and sundry other crimes and criminality.
Emmanuel Onwubiko is the head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA)
Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.