Law and Policy Responses to drug abuse in Nigeria, Making a case for decriminalization of drug for personal use

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April 29, 2019
Growing Nigeria economy through transport infrastructure development 1980-2018
April 29, 2019

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background to the study
According to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Report , some 200 million people, or 5percent of the world’s population aged 15 to 64years have used drugs at least once within a year which is about 15 million more than the previous year’s estimate. Likewise, according to the World Drug Report , the use of illicit drugs in all nations has increased in recent years. The report goes on to note that the increasing availability of a variety of drugs to an ever widening socio-economic spectrum of consumers is disconcerting, although the main problem at the global level continues to be opiates (notably heroine) followed by cocaine. For most of Europe and Asia, opiates accounted for 62 percent of all drug treatment sought in 2003. While 3.3 to 4.1 % of the global population admits to consuming drugs, the most worrisome trend for the UNDCP Executive Director is the younger and younger ages at which people are becoming addicted. In Pakistan for example, the share of those who started heroine use at 15 to 20years of age has doubled to almost 24 percent. The overall health of the user is affected negatively and behaviours associated with drug abuse predispose the abuser to crime and contagious diseases including HIV/AIDS .
Substance use is becoming increasingly widespread in many African countries . In Nigeria, a substantial percentage of the national budgetary health allocation is utilized for treatment and rehabilitation of people with substance use problems . In this Nigeria, industrialization, urbanization and increased exposure to Western life style have contributed to the spreading of substance use, with alcohol and tobacco acting as “gateway drugs” to the use of other substances like cocaine, heroin, amphetamine, inhalants and hallucinogens . Factors like unhealthy family background, high social class, peer-group influence, and desire to remain awake at night, pressure to succeed in academic work, self-reported poor mental health, and easy accessibility of drugs have also been implicated .
The Nigerian National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has stated that drug abuse is a major problem in schools . For instance, more than 5% of the school population in Lagos state, Nigeria had taken a psychoactive drug once in their lives . Many of these behaviours are heavily tied to the peer culture, as children learn from and imitate the peers they like and admire. Wanting to be acceptable to others becomes very important in adolescence, and this factor is significant in the development of eating disorders, alcohol consumption, tobacco and drug use, tanning, not practicing safe sex, and vulnerability to injury, among other behaviour.
These adolescent who get involved in risky behaviour such as drug abuse often have high levels of conflict with their parents and poor self-control, suggesting that they engage in such behaviour to manage a stressful life. Adolescents who abused substances typically do more poorly in school, and family problems, deviance, and low self-esteem appear to explain this relationship. Parents and peers influence adolescent drinking by influencing attitude about alcohol and by acting as role models .On the other hand, parental deprivation due to deaths, divorces, separation or discord has also been strongly associated with drug .
Despite National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and other organization-based interventions, drug abuse is on the rise with over 40% of students abusing various types of drugs. Drug abuse appears to be a common behaviour among secondary school students. In shopping centres and other public spaces, students who have dropped out of school because of drug abuse, can be found loitering and participating in other forms of criminal activities. In Nigeria, there are only a few published studies focusing on substance use among students none of which has been carried out in the area covered by the present investigation.
Given the availability, consequences and increasing use of drugs in Nigeria generally and recent increases in political violence thought to be related to the abuse of substances in Bida, Nigeria, it is important to establish students’ perception of causes and influence of drugs and substance abuse on their learning behaviour.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Normally, student or other citizen of a country is supposed to be focused on his/her academic pursuits or business or job, become a very useful member of the society who at any point in time should be willing , ready and able to contribute meaningfully towards the attainment of overall societal goal.
Recently, most political violence, disharmony and disturbances in the country are usually perpetrated by these adolescents that are easily convinced and used by bad and corrupt politicians. Some of these behaviours are suspected to be exhibited under the influence of drug abuse. Factors like unhealthy family background, high social class, peer-group influence, desire to remain awake at night, pressure to succeed in academic work, self-reported poor mental health, and easy accessibility of drugs have also been implicated .The foremost concern is the number of these youths that will form an addiction to serious drugs, jeopardizing their own health and safety and creating difficulties for their families and the public at large. Drug abuse among these youths if not checked, can have negative consequences for the academic, social, psychological and physical development of users.
In view of the aforementioned, therefore, this study aims to explore law and policy responses to drug abuse in Nigeria, making a case for decriminalization of drug for personal use.
1.3 Objectives of the study
The general objective of this study was to assess the law and policy responses to drug abuse in Nigeria, Making a case for decriminalization of drug for personal use.
The specific objectives of this study were to:
(1) Determine youth knowledge of drug abuse;
(2) Examine the perceived causes of drug abuse among youth;
(3) Find out the extent of drug abuse among youth;
(4) Identify commonly abused drugs among youth;
1.4 Research Questions
1. In the understanding of youth, what is drug abuse?
2. What are the perceived causes of drug abuse among youth?
3. How frequently does youth abuse drugs?
4. What are the drugs commonly abused among youth?
5. What in the youth perception are the results of abusing these drugs on their health?
1.5 Scope of the Study
The scope of this study is center on the law and policy responses to drug abuse in Nigeria, Making a case for decriminalization of drug for personal use.
1.5 Research Methodology
Doctrinal method and also empirical shall be mainly adopted in this research which will entail the consideration of statutes, textbooks of both foreign and local authors, journals, case laws conferences, materials form, collection of facts and data through questionnaires, internet and other relevant materials will be consulted.
1.6 Literature Review
Adolescence is a period of transition from childhood to adulthood and this critical developmental period is marked by several physical, psychological and social changes. Adolescents are a segment of population with age range between 14-25years. Most undergraduates in the university in Nigeria or other youth are usually within the adolescent age range of 14-25 years . Adolescence is a time of experimentation, exploration, curiosity and identity search. Part of such a quest involves some risk-taking, including the use and abuse of psychoactive substances, which are the drugs that exert their major effects on the brain resulting in sedation, stimulation or change in mood of an individual. Adolescents are faced with the huge task of establishing a sense of identity. The new cognitive skills of maturing adolescents give them the ability to reflect on who they are and what makes them unique. Identity is made up of two components, self-concept and self-esteem . Self-concept is a set of beliefs about oneself, including attributes, roles, goals, interests, values, religious and political beliefs, while self-esteem is how one feels about one’s self-concept. All of the developmental changes that adolescents experience prepare them to experiment with new behaviours. This experimentation results in risk-taking, which is a normal part of adolescent development . Engaging in risk-taking behaviour helps adolescents to shape their identities, try out their new decision-making skills and gain peer acceptance and respect .
Unfortunately, some of the risk that adolescents pursue may pose a real threat to their health and well being. These include pregnancy, cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and drug abuse. Odejide (2000) posited that drug is said to be abused when its use is not pharmacologically necessary especially when used in the face of legal prohibition or when a socially acceptable beverage is used excessively. Sambo, (2008) viewed that chronic use of substances can cause serious and sometimes irreversible damage to adolescent’s physical and psychological development.
A drug refers to a substance that could bring about a change in the biological function through its chemical actions . It is also considered as a substance that modifies perceptions, cognition, mood, behaviour and general body functions . This could thus be considered as chemical modifiers of the living tissues that could bring about psychological and behavioural changes .
Drug abuse is a major public health problem all over the world . The use and abuse of drugs by adolescents have become one of the most disturbing health related phenomena in Nigeria and other parts of the world . Several school going adolescents experience mental health problem, either temporarily or for a long period of time. Some become insane, maladjusted to school situations and eventually drop out of school. NAFDAC as cited by Haladu explained the term drug abuse as excessive and persistent self-administration of a drug without regard to the medically or culturally accepted patterns. It could also be viewed as the use of a drug to the extent that it interferes with the health and social function of an individual. Odejide warned that drug abusers who exhibit symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, behavior changes, fatigue and loss or increase in appetite should be treated by medical experts and conusellors to save them from deadly diseases.
The alarming evidence in the prevalence of drug abuse, the effects and consequences of substance abuse among students has called for concern and challenge to all helping professions to mount strategies of equipping youths with skills of living devoid of substance abuse. In Nigeria today, the consequences of substance use are diverse, including acute and chronic health, social as well as psychological problem. There is disruption of interpersonal relationships particularly within the family, marginalization, criminal behaviour, school failure, vocational problems and failure to achieve normal adolescent milestones, yet these adolescents are expected to be the leaders of the country in the future when they do not even have any focus for the future. Several studies carried out among the secondary school students in Benin City by Omage and Oshiloya , Nwagwu , Fayombo and Obianwu found out that students and youth of easy virtue in the community are involved in cannabis abuse and stimulants such as amphetamines and cannabis. The consensus of opinion therefore seems to be that youths are also seriously involved in substance abuse.bDrug abuse has become such a problem of great concern to all well-meaning Nigerian and particularly the Federal Government to the extent that an Agency has been established to combat the social disease with a view to reducing the spread of drug abuse to the barest minimum or eradicating it totally.
The Nigerian National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has stated that drug abuse is a major problem in schools . For instance, about 20% of the school population in Edo state, Nigeria have taken a psychoactive drug once in their lives . Many of these behaviors are heavily tied to the peer culture, as children learn from and imitate the peers they like and admire. Wanting to be attractive to others becomes very important in adolescence, and this factor is significant in the development of eating disorders, alcohol consumption, tobacco and drug use, tanning, not practicing safe sex, and vulnerability to injury, among other behaviour. These adolescent who get involved in such risky behaviour often have high levels of conflict with their parents and poor self-control, suggesting that they engage in such behaviour to manage a stressful life. Adolescents who abused substances typically do more poorly in school, and family problems, deviance, and low self-esteem appear to explain this relationship. Parents and peers influence adolescent drinking by influencing attitude about alcohol and by acting as role models .On the other hand, parental deprivation due to deaths, divorces, separation or discord has also been strongly associated with drug abuse .
Majority of the Nigerian youths ignorantly depend on one form of drug or the other for their various daily activities such as social, educational, political, moral etc. such drug include tobacco, Indian hemp, cocaine , morphine, Heroine, Alcohol, Epherdrine, Madras, caffeine, Glue, Barbiturates, Amphetamines etc. Oshikoya and Alli in their studies on perception of Drug Abuse amongst Nigerian undergraduates identified dependence and addiction as one of the major consequence of drug abuse, characterized by compulsive drug craving seeking behaviour, are use that persist even in the face of negative consequences. These changes are maladaptive and inappropriate to the social or environmental setting therefore may place the individual at risk of harm. Experiment with drugs during adolescence (11 – 25 years) is common. At this age, they use drugs for new things. They use drugs for many reasons including curiosity, because it feels good, to reduce stress, or to feel grown up. Using alcohol and tobacco at a young age increase the risk of using other drugs later.
In one of the WHO’s and the world heart foundation’s data, posit that in Nigeria, 22.1% of school youth age between 12 to 17 years use tobacco. In South Africa, it is 19.4%, 15.1% in Ghana and 16.2% in Kenya. The government of Nigeria seems to lose sight of its responsibilities though it claims that tobacco should be regulated in a market oriented framework, which strikes an optimal balance and the need to ensure healthy work force. Some teens will experiment and stop, or continue to use occasionally with significant problems. Others will develop addiction, moving on to more dangerous drugs and causing significant harm to themselves and the society at large.
Today, more Nigerian youths are becoming drug dependants, while Nigeria gradually transits from the status of a drug-consuming nation to that of a drug-producing one. Young ones who are mainly from well-to-do homes are increasingly identifying with the ‘big boys’ that practice the use of substance like heroin and cocaine. Others substances like Indian hemp, which is frequently produced in Nigeria and other substances like Methamphetamine and tablet with codeine capable of intoxicating are mostly found in schools .
1.7 Operational Definition of Key Terms
Drug: Any product other than food or water that affects/alter the way the human system works.
Drug abuse: Is the use of a mood-altering drug to change the way one feels.
Drug addiction: Addiction to drugs or alcohol means that a person’s body can no longer function without these substances.
Drug related problems: This term is used to describe all the negative effects associated with drug abuse including ill health, violence, conflicts with friends or school authorities, destruction of school property and academic underperformance.
Illegal/legal drugs: In this study illegal drugs refer to the substances deemed harmful to the mental and physical wellbeing of the individual by the government who seeks to control or discourage consumption by law, such as cocaine, morphine, cannabis etc.
Intervention: Attempts to help drug users positively modify their behaviour and change their attitude towards the misuse of drugs are referred to as interventions..
Prevention: For the purposes of this study, prevention will refer to educational activities, programmes or policies aimed at enabling young people to stay healthy and productive and inhabit an environment free from drug abuse (primary prevention).
Psychoactive Substance: Refers to any substance that when taken can modify perception, mood, cognition, behaviour, or motor functions.
Strategies: This term refers to the methods or approaches that schools have put in place to address drug related problems.
Substance abuse: Refers to the use of all chemicals, drugs and industrial solvents that can produce dependence (psychological and physical).
Youth: The UN, for statistical consistency across regions, defines ‘youth’, as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, without prejudice to other definitions by Member States.

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