with kidnapping on the rise, medical experts have expressed worries over the possibility of an increase in the rate of non-communicable diseases and mental health illnesses.

Professionals Urge Citizens to be Cautious as Kidnapping May Worsen Hypertension, Diabetes or Mental Illnesses

The economic crisis of the nation continues to bite harder and insecurity, especially with kidnapping on the rise, medical experts have expressed worries over the possibility of an increase in the rate of non-communicable diseases and mental health illnesses.

Expertsnoted that individuals and patients with NCDs are living in fear of the inability to buy essential medications due to the rising costs, coupled with the fear of being kidnapped.

According to the World Health Organisation, NCDs are diseases such as heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension and diabetes, adding that they are among the leading causes of death worldwide.

Shedding more light on how insecurity and rising drugs cost impacts negatively on Nigerians, the experts noted that living in constant fear and uncertainty would definitely lead to an increase in disease conditions and complications.

Recently, reports on kidnapping and killing incidents across several parts of the country have heightened, sending shivers down the spine of Nigerians.

The Federal Capital Territory, which is the nation’s seat of power, has been inundated with kidnap cases.

Furthermore, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Ekiti State witnessed several kidnap cases with the latest being the abduction of five pupils and four teachers of the Apostolic Faith Group of Schools in Emure-Ekiti.

Last weekend, the Lagos State Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, Philip Aivoji, and party officials were kidnapped at Ogere, along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

These abductions come on the heels of the recent release of five sisters abducted alongside their father in Abuja in January.

The kidnappers requested a ransom of N60m and killed the eldest of the girls, Najeebah, in a bid to press home their ransom demands.

In several areas of the North and South East, killings and kidnapping continue unabated and according to worried Nigerians, the incidents have cast serious doubt on the ability of the security agencies to secure people and properties.

Meanwhile, the Civil Society Joint Action Group pegged the figure of violent deaths and abductions since the inauguration of the Tinubu-led administration at 2,423 and 1,872, respectively.

The economic crises, caused by the fuel subsidy removal by the President during his inauguration on May 2023, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s decision to float the naira leading to inflation, rise in production costs and the exit of British pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline in August, have also been identified as factors leading to increases in the prices of goods and services, especially drugs.

Aside from leaving in fear and apprehension, the experts stated that the situation had left many Nigerians unable to meet their daily dietary needs and medications.

Consequently, there are fears that the situation would worsen the physical, physiological and mental health conditions of Nigerians with an underfunded health sector, which is less than five per cent of the country’s budgetary allocation, and with less than 45,000 doctors to care for over 213 million citizens.

The Unit Head of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Professor Olufemi Fasanmade, said patients with long-term non-communicable diseases are currently living in fear of the inability to buy their drugs.

He further noted that due to the dire economic crises, many patients no longer undergo routine medical check-ups in the hospitals, consequently leading to the fear of disease complications.

“Patients are now afraid of how they can afford their drugs, how they can continue to buy the drugs and the fear of complications arising if they can’t get the drugs.

“Many of them are anxious and some have not been coming in for their regular check-ups because either they can’t afford tests, drugs or transportation, or all three combined. That is a clear and present fear being nursed by the majority of patients,” the don said.

Fasanmade, who is also the President of the Endocrine and Metabolism Society of Nigeria, added that constant anxiety in patients with NCDs might increase their high blood pressure, sugar levels and sleep disorders.

He further noted that this would lead to deteriorating health conditions and worsened complications.

The endocrinologist added, “It is a vicious cycle because they are afraid that they can’t afford the routine drugs they take, thereby, reducing the medicine intake. With this, the complications get worse and they still can’t afford to take care of the complications, thus, bringing about more issues.”

The don, however, projected a sharp rise in the adoption of herbal and alternative medicines due to the increased drug prices.

“What we are going to see more in the future is that many more patients would revert to either native medicines or other alternative forms of treatment, including spiritual, among others because of the inability to afford orthodox medicines.

“Several patients say that they have started using herbs or prayers to take care of their health problems and this is mainly because of the cost of care,” he said.

On his part, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Peter Ajiboye, also agreed that insecurity and economic crisis are creating fear in Nigerians.

He added that this would increase anxiety symptoms, among other mental health conditions.

“The kidnap epidemic and economic situation are exposing a lot of people to undue fear and stressful conditions which has a lot of implications. For example, someone who is face to face with a kidnapper could have several reactions such as panic attacks and acute stress reactions, which makes the person restless and unable to keep calm. This can lead to increased heart rate, sweating, fainting, among others.

“Having a close encounter with fearful conditions such as kidnap could cause post-traumatic stress disorder. After such a person has been released, there could be several health problems that could come up such as anxiety, irritability and loss of sleep.

“For the general populace, the insecurity and dire economic situation would increase stress levels which is a type of tension that could be unbearable. If someone continues to be subjected to such stressful conditions, there could be a lot of reactions, such as shouting, being irritated, restlessness, incessant headaches, loss of concentration and forgetfulness. If these continue unabated and people are pushed to their limits, they begin to develop anxiety and if left untreated, become depressed and start nursing suicide ideations,” Ajiboye warned.

The don further mentioned that the conditions could also trigger psychosis in persons with a familial history of mental illness.

Ajiboye, who is also a consultant psychiatrist at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, said that such conditions could in the long run lead to hypertension, diabetes and reduced body immunity.

He added that individuals with NCDs could further have worsened symptoms.

The psychiatrist urged the government to address the economic and insecurity challenges in the country.

He advised individuals to avoid stressful conditions, be security conscious and avoid situations that could trigger fear.

Lastly, “For some people, what they see and hear on the news and social media could be what triggers fear in them. For persons who have increased anxiety and tension after hearing such news, there is a need to regulate one’s exposure to triggers When under undue stress, it is better to get someone to speak to so that the situation can be addressed before it leads to a physiological, physical complication or mental health condition. People who are on treatment should take their medications regularly and if they need to call for assistance to get their medications, they should do so. We must learn not to focus on both the individual problems and those facing the country. We must do all we can to remain healthy,” the don advised.