Mental health experts have dispelled the notion that there is a class difference in the increasing trends of drug abuse among youths in Nigeria.
They noted that contrary to assumptions, children from wealthy homes are also abusing all sorts of drugs just like children from less rich homes.
They added that the fact that children from wealthy homes easily have money to get drugs to quench their pain, disappointments, and failures enables them to have access to some very dangerous drugs.
According to the experts, there are, however, some different factors fuelling drug abuse by children from wealthy homes as well as the kind of drugs they abuse.
Speaking with our correspondent, the experts, Consultant Psychiatrist and the Medical Director and Chief Executive Officer, Federal Neuro-psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr. Olugbenga Owoeye, and a Nigerian-trained but American based Psychiatrist, Academic, and Addiction Expert, Dr. John Akinbote, said it has become necessary to address factors fuelling substance abuse by youths from wealthy homes as well those from a poor background.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, Dr. Owoeye said it was important to stress that children from wealthy homes as well as those from poor backgrounds now abuse drugs, even though the types of drugs they are exposed to and abuse are different.
The Medical Director of the Federal Government owned psychiatric hospital said the factors fuelling drug abuse among children from wealthy homes are also different.
He said, “There are many factors that lead to substance use disorder – biological, psychological, and social.
“Biological is genetic and hereditary. Psychological is personality and psychological disorders, mental health disorders.
“Some of them may want to use it as a coping mechanism or to self-medicate.
“The social factors include the areas where they live, whether it’s a drug-prone area, the type of friends they have in schools – peer pressure. The list is inexhaustible.
“Now, the type of drugs that any of these adolescents or young adults abuse depends on the environment and the availability of such drugs in such environment.
“For example, all these drugs are available almost everywhere but there are some that are peculiar to the slum. In the slum, you have alcohol in various types and concussions. And that is where you also see Indian Hemp of various types, of various combinations, and cannabis of various types and combinations.
“Cannabis of various grades and combinations are also available in some high-brow areas too.
“However, there are some other drugs which are common now in the high brow areas like all these injectables, for example, that is where you see them injecting themselves.
“Some other expensive drugs are also available in the high brow areas such as cocaine and heroine. So you see that those people from environments where there is some degree of affluence are highly involved in all these. Where you have various sophisticated hubs and restaurants. So these are the places where you have these sophisticated drugs.
“But by and large, there are some drugs that cut across socio-economic strata. Alcohol is number one, and Indian hemp or Cannabis is another one. Then all these tablets like Rohypnol and all the rest like Tramadol they are also there, so they cut across.
“There is what they call ice, so it also cut across various socio-economic strata but there are few ones that are peculiar to all these affluent societies and these can be easily affordable to all these rich people. So that’s what differentiates them”.
When asked what wealthy parents are doing and not doing that could unwittingly be pushing their children to drug abuse, the mental health expert said their major undoing was not having enough time for parenting.
“There are some things they do that are sort of fuelling this issue. For example, some parents don’t have adequate time to rear these children appropriately because they have a lot of commitments. They are chasing money. That is one thing.
“Some of them also leave these children to the care of housemaids and house helps. Some leave them to the care of their friends who may misguide them, that’s another issue.
“Another thing is that some of them would even display this affluence to the children by making money available for them beyond what they need all in the name of I don’t want my children to suffer.
“Some of these children don’t know what to do with the money and their friends would just lure them to parties and all sorts of places. They will say, let’s go to this, let’s go to that. These are some of the things that these people do. And some would even make cars available to the children, so it’s easy for them to move from one place to another”.
Dr. Owoeye also flayed the parents for not paying attention to the kinds of friends their children keep, stressing that they are often the ones luring the rich kids into drug abuse.
He stressed the need for more awareness that this problem exists and how to identify and curb the causative factors.
“So all parents must be fully aware of this as the consequences of drug abuse are enormous both socially, psychologically, and physically.
“We need to educate the general populace on this and also prevent such a thing from reoccurring.
“Also, there is a need for us to include drug abuse education in the curriculum of the schools, primary schools, secondary schools, even up to the University level. We need to educate them on drugs and the dangers associated with them so that they know the danger that they want to face by going into it. You know knowledge is power.
He also stressed the need to cut off drug supply from youth, noting that the NDLEA and other relevant agencies need to step up.
“They need to burst all the syndicates involved in the importation and the distribution of these drugs. This would go a long way to help us as both the drug demand and the supply would be adequately tackled.
“The Non-governmental organisations should also join in the crusade. We also need to train more experts in Nigeria to tackle drug abuse. For example, as of now, we have less than 300 psychiatrists for over 200 million people. There is a need for us to train and re-train experts in this field. If we take these enumerated steps, we would be able to make headway in combating drug abuse in Nigeria.
Also speaking with our correspondent, Dr. Akinbote, stated that there were some peculiar drugs abused by children from wealthy homes, adding that they are also able to access these drugs because of the environment they are in.
He said, “Some very expensive drugs like cocaine and heroin are used by the kids from the rich homes. They get it from drug syndicates or barons in top places.
“They have ways of communicating effectively among themselves to get these drugs. They may be very expensive but they are in the market for those who can afford them”.
Speaking further, the Florida-based mental health physician said: “The use of drugs, however, has nothing to do with economic status.
“It is a result of the journey towards looking for pleasure. There is a region in the brain called the pleasure centre – nucleus accumbens which enables us to enjoy food, sex, water, etc.
“Over time people want to experiment and when they do such with drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes and they notice drugs, cigarettes and cannabis stimulate that area better.
“The rich kids have more funding to get the more expensive ones like cocaine, and heroin and they have privacy.
“This is because the parents do not follow their children to the university. Most of them may be executives and may not have enough time for their kids like the poor parents do.
“Even in America here, it’s the same thing. I work in an addiction centre, and I can tell you that many young people are brought there just like the old people who need rehabilitation because they abuse drugs”.
When asked how to end the menace, he said, “It cannot be stopped but the menace can be reduced.
“It’s feasible. The problem is that people in government and power use these drugs and these politicians who are supposed to enact anti-drug laws use them and smuggle them in.
“What we can do is awareness – letting parents know the tale tell signs of when children use drugs.
“When people are using drugs, there is this drastic change you will see – they may be dressing awkwardly, prefer solitary confinement in the room, and may have eating disorders.
“You must monitor your child so that you can seek help early before total dependence on the drug occurs”.
He stressed that it is a fact that children from wealthy homes are abusing drugs, noting that studies have supported it. Parents, he said should make their kids their ‘friends’.
“Parents should anticipate any child can be strongly influenced by friends, so talk to them to know their challenges, preferences, and relationships. Parents should assess the types of friends their kids move with and discourage friendships with questionable characters,” he said.
According to a study published online by Live Science, teenagers who attended high-achieving educational institutions in well-to-do communities may be more susceptible to drug addiction challenges than their less economically endowed peers.
The researchers say their findings revealed that by the age of 26, upper-middle-class family young adults had two – or three times higher chances of being diagnosed with drug addiction than the national rate of men and women the same age of less endowed economic status.
Another study published by the International Journal of Management, Social Sciences, Peace and Conflict identified neglect by parents and guardians, marital breakdown as well as divorce as possible reasons for the abuse of substances by children from wealthy homes.
It also noted that some of the same factors could affect those from economically deprived backgrounds as well.