By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Fourteen million three hundred thousand (14.3) people representing 14.4 per cent of Nigerians between the ages of 15 and 64 years are drug users, a survey on national drug use in Nigeria, has disclosed.
While presenting the report in Abuja, yesterday, the Director, Division for Operations of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ms. Miwa Kato, revealed that based on the above data, drug use in Nigeria is twice more than the global average of 5.6 per cent.
Based on data collected from 38,850 respondents in the household survey and 9,344 high risk drug users across the 36 states of the federation, the report provides for the first time, robust data on the prevalence of drug use in Nigeria at the national level and also by geo-political zones and states.
One out of 7 Nigerians under the ages of 15-64 have used drugs in form or the other in the past one year.
According to the report, 10.6 million people use Cannabis, 4.6 million used opioids, 2.4 million use cough syrup and 481,000 use tranquelizers and sedatives.
The report further disclosed that 340,000 used ecstasy while 300,000 people use solvents and inhalants. On the other hand, 238,000 people use amphetamines and prescription stimulants while 92,000 people use cocaine.
A cursory look at the report revealed that 1 in 5 drug users is dependent, 1 in 3 carnnabis users is dependent, 1 in 5 pharmaceutical opioids user is dependent and 1 in 7 amphetamine users is dependent.
The report shockingly revealed that there are 376,000 high risk drug users in Nigeria and that 40 per cent of the high risk drug users wanted treatment, but they could not access it .
The report however, identified what it described as 4 top barriers to accessing drug treatment and support.
The four barriers, the report revealed, included fear of stigma, treatment services not available, non availability of information about local treatment and the treatment is not affordable.
According to the report, 1 in 5 high risk drug users inject drugs. This, the report revealed, 80,000 drug users inject drugs in Nigeria. Apart from that, 1 in 4 drug users in Nigeria is a woman.
The report however, expressed concern that there is a gap in meeting the needs for treatment and care for people with drug use disorders.
“With close to 3 million Nigerians living with some level of drug dependence, the extremely limited availability of drug counseling and treatment services exacerbates this health crisis,” the report noted.
Speaking while unveiling the report, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehannire, insisted that parents and communities have fundamental roles to play in combating drug abuse in Nigeria.
He, particularly charged fathers and mothers to create time and opportunities to take care of their children and communities should go back to their responsibilities, where every other member is his brothers’ keeper.
The minister further called for the need to review drug laws in Nigeria with focus on drug barons and decriminalization of drug users.
This, according to him, will assist in addressing some of the stigma associated with drug use that prevent uptake of available treatment services;
The Minister also advocated for the establishment of more more drug treatment facilities and community drop-in centres to adequately cater for the large segments of drug using population. Dedicated treatment centres should be established for female drug users;
“Scale up the coverage and provision of a comprehensive package of services including opioid substitution therapy for prevention, treatment and care of HIV for people who inject drugs in the community and prison settings;
“Have appropriate legislative framework to support implementation of National Drug Distribution Guidelines and eventual dismantling of open drug markets across the country which has promoted diversion of controlled medicines meant for medical use to illicit channels;
“Strengthen NDLEA and other Agencies working on drug supply reduction to effectively discharge their statutory mandates.”