Tackling the rising menace of teenage drug abuse in Nigeria.

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In the times past, drug or substance abuse was a distant issue. We heard about it in the media or watch scenes in movies. And if there drug takers in our society then, the were closeted – they were the deviants of the society. They were not proud of it and therefore, hid their shameful indulgence form public eye.

Drug abuse, has been described as “a patterned use of drugs in which the user consumes in amounts or with methods which are harmful to themselves or others”. Medical professionals are of the view that any type of drug can be abused. From the commonest of painkillers to prescription drugs.

That said, it is drug abuse in Minors that should be everybody worries. Minors usually youngsters below the age of 18. That is why the increasing prevalence of  drugs among youngsters under that age category is a recipe for disaster. Minor drug abuse is therefore, the use of medicine excessively by a set of peer under the the full age of legal responsibility.

Furthermore, this means a group of teenagers ranging from 12-18 years of age taking unprescribed medicine for negative purposes of getting ” high”.

The issue is wide already spread  and yet underrated in the country even as it is pervasive in our states, communities,and is accepted as a norm in streets. The rate at which this obscene activity is growing is alarming.

There is need for a sober reflection on this growing menace and a new national action plan combating drug use and abuse especially with a focus on children. We have to do it before it gets worse than what it is currently. Even now, it is bad enough for the future because we are facing an uncertain posterity if we don’t act now to mitigate this malaise.

Sometime ago, i witnessed an Inter-House sport competition held in a secondary school in Lagos. My finding with regards to doping by the youngsters during games left me jaw negatively dropping. This was the height of the unimaginable as i least expected children of their age range to be found wanting in this criminal activity. More so, as they were already using to get unfair advantage and cheating their way to sporting glory at a tender age.

After the game i went to congratulate the overall winner a male and then I asked him a few questions. Immediately he started to talk, i noticed his tongue was bluish. It was apparent.
I turned to his teammate, the one i noticed was so closed to him, and asked why their captain had a blue tongue. A being who he is, the youngster boasted about the Captain’s dope. He told me it is baba blue. So i asked if the  Captain had cough or cattarh. But the boy laughed, maybe at my naive question and he told me “you won’t  understand”.

This discovery happens to be the scariest thing that I have ever seen from this peer. It made me restless and I have been trying to find out more of these. I noticed in my findings that it is not only the kids in this particular school that perpetuate themselves in the taking of illicit drugs. It is something that is widespread and systematic and it is gradually becoming rampant. Kids from your neighborhood may also be guilty of this as I write.  Maybe your siblings too or even your children. This thing is the master of all cover-ups and that could be the reason why you have not noticed.

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These kids, they have code names for the drugs. An unsuspecting mind may not fathom what the sinister meaning of the words may be in their conversations  unless a person is really careful. Some of the code words in words such as Coda for Codeine, Trams for Tramadol, Rochi for Rephenol, while some have even get high on methylated spirits. Yes, it is that bad now.

It baffles me how children of now adays have grown to become “Alpacinos” under their parent’s watch. If you have to imagine it, what  the future of these teenagers hold is scary if this unwholesome practices continue in the kindbof flourish that it is now. If a child at such a tender age could not believe in his or her physical ability to do sporting activities, what does the tomorrow hold?

As medical sciences has proven, the effect of these drugs in latter days does more damage to them physically and  mentally and could, as a result, lead to memory loss, short sightedness, migraine, increase in heart beat, stroke hypertension, seizures and untimely death.

Children are often motivated by some negative portrayals they see in entertainment content mostly from western cutures, what they see and hear in the media.
Some of these negative behaviors are also reinforced in local entertainment content. And in this regard, one can call out Olamide’s song, Science Student, as glorifying this type of behavior. Children often tend to behave or act according to what  a particular celebrity whom they see as models do and by that, they end up being motivated negatively.

Lil Wayne, the famous American rapper, for instance sang and explained how codeine makes him feel in his song Me and My Drank. He said

Sippin’ on some drink The color purple like Celie Really They say I should chill Before it kills me But so will A car crash or a nine milli (That’s true) And I ain’t even mention cigarettes or airplanes So grab a Sprite Heres a pint We can share, Wayne Yeah Mayne Tastes so sweeto just pour it in my drink And I’mma sip until I lean hard Drink got me moving slower than a retard”.

As explained in this song, some contents are self expalnatory. The color of codeine is pruple and it is a thick syrup that some drink raw or better still mix them with other beverages. They furher expressed how harmful this syrup is to their health, how it can kill them but the addiction is on a  high side and this makes it harder for them to stop.

Lil Wayne has suffered uncountable number of seizure in the past few years and has nearly lost his life from those seizures on several occasions.

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It is the duty of parents to notice if there is a slight change in a child behavoural or attitunal mannerism of their children. Be it physical or emotional. If a child who does not sleep ordinarily after coming back from school around 2pm suddenly starts to sleep whenever he come home and doesn’t until, say, 10pm, the parents of such a child should show concern and probe him deep.

If a child does chores that literally takes 2hours in less than 30 minutes, don’t feel yes, my boy is strong. Probe it! Parents have a lead role to play as it is their duty to check what a child does, drinks, eats, wears and even how he or she talks. But instead, it seem that some parents would wave it without questions with typical dismissal “na small pikin dey worry am, he go change”. Most parents don’t even have time for a heart-to- talk with their children. They think it is enough care to buy them clothes, cater for their feedings, and send them to school. But these, important as they are, doesnt justify good parentage.

Issues like drug, alcohol and sex are worth discussing with teenagers. It is absurd how some parent cant build confidence in discussing sexual issues with their teenagers. This shouldn’t be a big deal. You can’t discuss how a child was brought into existence and you feel a Biology teacher would do that better than you, the parents?

The rate at which this obscene calamity is growing in our society is alarming. There is need for this to be curbed fast before it gets messier than it already is.

The bulk of today’s societal faults are mostly traced back to the mass media. This is so because the medium made it paramount for us to uphold issue that needs awareness and this uncultured habit need to be stopped by using all tools in the mass media. The media needs to do more of gatekeeping as to what not just children but its entire audience watch or listen.

Also there is need for government to sensitize children in schools and work with the mass media to create publicity messages to let them know the negative effects of irresponsible behavior as danger to them and that it can ruin there lives. They all should therefore, say a resounding no, to go drugs.

Ogundeji Michael O
@sauccy360

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