Mr Anthony Ebuka Ojukwu, an experienced clinical psychologist, social worker and a columnist with Umuaka Times speaks about drug abuse by teens and youths across Nigeria.
What do you have to say about the rate teens take drugs today?
The rate of drug use amongst teens in Nigeria is alarming, and shocking, to say the least. It seems as though almost every youth I come across is a drug user, and that’s a really worrisome situation. There seems to be a competition between university and secondary school students over who rank higher in drug use.
Can you call it a generational tragedy? if yes or no why?
It is definitely not a generational fortune. I could call it a generational tragedy because the effects of these drugs in the way they are taken are largely negative on the long run, and we see people become addicts faster than we even expect, and it keeps growing.
Do you see more dangers ahead?
If proper help is not sought, it may very well become trans generational.
Some guys who take drugs like marijuana have argued that it is not harmful to the body how true is that?
Marijuana, in the context it is being taken is indeed harmful. Very harmful. Speaking from a neurological point of view, marijuana has effects on brain structure, frontal lobe performance, and even memory and learning. These may not be observed in the short run, but on the long run, especially when the person gets to the stage of addiction or dependence, the neurological damages are too much.
These substances are taken in a way that is not prescribed by a medical professional. Therefore, the users do not know the long term impact. They may see it as a way to achieve euphoria, and many others; but these effects are short term; hence the continued usage. Any substance that is not taken in the prescribed way is harmful to the human body. There are reasons why we study these substances throughout our career.
How busy and populated are hospital wards for drug users?
They are quite busy and populated.
Who are the people that you treat at the rehab centres?
Many drug users that are brought to the facility are people who have gotten to the stage of dependence and addiction. Many drug users in Nigeria would not go for rehabilitation unless the situation is life threatening and debilitating. Many see mental facilities as a place where only “mad” people go, and that’s very terrible. I do not know why that inhumane terminology “mad” is still in use; however, the stigma surrounding mental facilities is still heavy, and many people would not visit a mental health facility willingly for fear of being termed “mad”.
Why is it that some treatments take long time?
At the stage where substance users come for treatment for their substance use, it is mostly bad, so the treatment is more intense, and long lasting. Due to the effects of substance to the brain, it is not so easy for substance users to stop using substance without continued treatment, and regular check-ins.
Is it true that there are no rehabilitation centres in Nigeria for drug users?
No, it is not true. There are rehabilitation centres in Nigeria for drug users. Yes, we do need so many more, but there are.
During rehab sessions, is it true that some patients are given hard drugs at times? If yes why?
During treatment of substance addiction and dependence, some patients who go through withdrawal symptoms are given medication. This is because, to stop the substance without medication is extremely harmful and can even cause death. This process is called “Detoxification”. To detoxify the body of the substance.
During detoxification, what happens?
With detoxification, another drug that is not addictive is introduced by the physician, and the person is properly monitored so as to properly detoxify them of those substances.
You talked about withdrawal symptoms. Please when does a withdrawal symptom occur?
Withdrawal symptoms happen when the concentration of the substance in the person’s blood stream has become so high that they need to constantly take the substance in order to perform. Without the substance, they begin to experience the opposite effect of that substance like sweating, fever, nausea, cold, and so many others.