Substance abuse portend danger, threatens Nigeria’s future- Psychiatrists

Mental health experts have expressed deep concern over the escalating rate of substance use, particularly among the youth, warning that the trend portends great danger to the country’s future.

According to them, the erosion of family values, and changing lifestyles were identified as contributory factors that further complicated matters while the advent of social media with its incorrect messages that wrongly influence the younger generation further complicated matters.

They brought all these to the fore on Wednesday, during the 3rd edition of Dr Taiwo Adamson’s annual debate and mental wellness, organised by the Association of Resident Doctors, Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

A former medical director of the Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta, Taiwo Adamson lamented that eight out of 10 patients admitted to his private facility have mental issues related to drug use.

The renowned consultant psychiatrist said there are addictive disorders in many of the patients.

She highlighted a disturbing evolution in the drug landscape, citing the synthesis of drugs like Indian hemp in laboratories.

“Before, we knew that Indian hemp came from plants, either from the leaves, stem, or seeds, depending. But now, they go to the laboratory and synthesize Indian hemp, and that is what our boys and girls are using now. They call it Colorado,” she revealed.

Describing an encounter with a patient, Adamson delved into the alarming specifics of this synthetic drug, she said, “In fact, one insisted he was not taking Indian hemp but Colorado. I asked what Colorado was, and he explained that it’s Indian hemp, but synthesized in a lab.

“They add spices from the far East, from China, from Japan – exotic spices altering their level of perception, leading to erratic behaviour.”

While noting the impact of these synthetic substances on users, the mental health expert explained, “When they take the drugs, they become like semi-comatose. Methamphetamines send quick messages between the brain and the body.

“Abnormal messages result in abnormal behaviour. Many of these young people are experiencing this, and it’s disheartening.”

Dr Adamson expressed hope in programmes that raise awareness among young people about the consequences of substance use.

Also speaking, Consultant Psychiatrist from the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Aro, Abeokuta, Oluyinka Majekodunmi, while painting a grim picture of the risk substance abuse poses to society, highlighted the root causes and its potential long-term impacts.

Reflecting on the current state of affairs, he asserted that the prevalent substance abuse issues are not isolated but are the aftermath of systemic failures dating back almost three decades.

Majekodunmi pointed to the collapse of Nigeria’s educational system as a crucial factor, emphasizing the oversight in designing the curriculum, which primarily focused on cognitive abilities while neglecting other vital aspects essential for shaping young lives.

Expressing concern over the country’s trajectory, he warned that Nigeria might be labelled a failed state due to systemic problems and called for immediate and strategic interventions to avert a catastrophic situation in the next 10 to 20 years.

Makejodunmi, however, said the substance abuse epidemic is a global concern affecting young people worldwide.

The psychiatrist acknowledged that the problem remains severe and could have had an even more devastating effect without ongoing educational initiatives.

He commended the collective efforts of local authorities, state and federal governments, international communities, NGOs, and other entities in raising awareness about substance use.

Majekodunmi emphasised the role of psychological difficulties arising from crises, violence, and wars worldwide, which lead individuals to self-medicate using illegal substances.

“The complex interplay of factors includes the global economic downturn, rising insecurity, and the erosion of family values,” he added.

The psychiatrist further highlighted and warned against the dangerous trend of young people modelling their lives after individuals who, despite projecting prosperity, are engaged in substance use.


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