Expert Calls for Early Education on Drug Abuse to Prevent Children's Exposure

Experts Warn of Looming Mental Health Crisis Due to Rising Psychoactive Substance Abuse

Nigeria is facing a looming mental health crisis due to the increasing abuse of psychoactive substances among youths, experts have warned. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has reported a rapid emergence of new psychoactive substances, including ‘Akuskura’, a deadly drug made of herbs but laced with tobacco and cannabis.

According to psychiatrists and drug experts, the trend is dangerous and forecasts a bleak future for Nigeria’s mental health. They warn that the situation will further impact the country’s productivity level, leading to more economic losses and a shortage of human capital.

The World Health Organisation defines psychoactive substances as drugs that affect perception, consciousness, cognition, mood, or emotions. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime notes that the rapid emergence of new psychoactive substances is a risk to public health and drug policy.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that 14.4% of Nigerians aged 15-64 years use drugs, with a comparatively high global annual prevalence of 5.6%. The NDLEA predicts a 40% increase in drug use in Africa by 2030.

Experts attribute the rise in substance abuse to the brain’s dependency on euphoric effects, leading youths to devise new ways to satisfy their cravings. They warn that the trend will increase the burden of mental health conditions, resulting in unproductive youths and additional strain on the healthcare system and national economy.

To address the issue, experts recommend establishing more drug rehabilitation centres, intensifying efforts to reduce the supply of psychoactive substances, and adopting a scientific evidence-based approach to prevention and treatment. They also stress the importance of preventive measures through education and awareness about substance use, starting from primary to tertiary institutions.