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25% Nigerian Females Abuse Drugs, Experts Reveal

Mental health experts have expressed concern over the rising cases of drug abuse among women, lamenting that 25 per cent are now engaged in the act.

The experts spoke at the World Drug Day organised by Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta Ogun State in collaboration with Solace Foundation.

Speaking at the event, the psychiatrists noted that studies showed that one out of four of those who use drugs in Nigeria are females.

The Director of Research, Training and Head, Drug Abuse Unit at the Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Dr Sunday Amosun, said the prevalence of drug use in Nigeria is significantly higher than the global average.

The psychiatrist, who was the keynote speaker, spoke on the theme, ‘The Evidence is Clear: Invest in Prevention’, stressed the urgent need for comprehensive preventive measures to tackle the drug abuse crisis in Nigeria.

On the high prevalence of drug use in the country, the mental health expert said, “The equivalence of drug use in Nigeria is about 14.3 million, meaning 14 out of every 100 Nigerians have used drugs.

“This translates to one in seven Nigerians, almost three times the global average of 5.6 per cent.”

He further lamented that 25 per cent of drug users in Nigeria are females and called for concerted efforts from all sectors to address the menace.

Amosun described Nigeria as a Drug Transit Point, noting that Nigeria’s role as a transit point for drugs, contributes to the country’s drug abuse problem.

He said, “Nigeria, along with Ghana, Togo, and the Benin Republic, forms a transit route for drugs destined for Europe. In the process, these drugs often end up being used locally.

“Additionally, there are local labs in Nigeria that manufacture narcotic substances such as methamphetamine and ecstasy for export.”

Linking the high rate of drug use by females to the COVID-19 pandemic, the psychiatrist said it worsened the situation, with restrictions hindering the export of these substances, leading to increased local consumption.

He added that prescribed medication such as tramadol, codeine-containing cough syrups, and injectable pentazocine have also seen a surge in misuse.

Amosun stressed the importance of prevention in combating drug abuse.

He added, “The key message for prevention is that it’s better they don’t start at all. Universal and targeted prevention strategies are crucial, involving families, schools, communities, and the government.

“We must ensure drug treatment centres are accessible and affordable, with psychiatric facilities in every general hospital capable of managing drug abuse.”

Amosun pointed to increased education, absent parenting, and higher purchasing power, among others as factors contributing to women’s high drug use and stigmatization.

“Elitism, where females are becoming more educated, and absent parenting are significant factors. Females often have more access to money, making it easier for them to procure drugs,” he said.

“Due to cultural perspectives and stigma, many families hide their female members who use drugs, fearing societal judgment and potential marital challenges.

“This is reflected in the low number of females seeking treatment – only one out of twenty patients in hospitals are female, despite one in four drug users being female,” he said.

On his part, the Provost and Chief Medical Director of the Neuropsychiatric Hospital Aro, Abeokuta, Paul Agboola, expressed deep concern over the growing issue of drug abuse among youths.

He emphasised the need for continuous and regular activities to combat this menace.

The Provost called for a united effort to combat drug abuse, stressing the importance of community involvement, parental responsibility, and continuous awareness programmes to safeguard the future of the youth.

He noted that drug abuse has escalated beyond the use of cannabis and cocaine to include substances like paint fumes and even sewage.

“Anything people feel can enhance their feeling, can stimulate their brain and they tend to abuse it,” he added.

The physician commended the efforts of the event organisers and stressed the importance of catching young people early.

“The essence of today’s programme is to create awareness in society. That is why you could see that we got the children, the schools in attendance, and it’s meant to catch them young,” he explained.

Agboola also highlighted the critical role of collaboration in addressing the drug abuse crisis.

He expressed the institution’s readiness to partner with the government and stakeholders in the community.

Also speaking on the same theme, the Deputy Director of Clinical Psychology at the hospital, Dr. Olanrewaju Sodeinde, said there is severe global health and social issues posed by psychoactive drug use.

He described the issue as a “global pandemic” with devastating effects on millions worldwide.

The psychologist outlined numerous health problems associated with drug abuse to include damage to vital organs, increased infection risks (HIV/AIDS, STDs, hepatitis), sleep and appetite disturbances, mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia, and severe behavioural changes like irritability and violence.

Citing the National Drug Survey, he said that in Nigeria, 14.3 million people (14.4% of those aged 15-64) use drugs, with cannabis being the most common (10.6 million users).

According to him, additionally, 4.6 million Nigerians used opioids non-medically in 2023, and that one out of every four drug users is a woman.

He further noted that the World Drug Report in 2019, shows that 271 million people (5.5% of the global population aged 15-64) used drugs, with projections indicating that 35 million individuals suffer from drug use disorders.

Sodeinde stressed the need for urgent and collaborative measures to mitigate the widespread crisis.

He called for comprehensive efforts at all levels—governmental, community, family, and individual—to invest in prevention and address the escalating problem of drug abuse.

SOURCE: Punch HealthWise