President Muhammadu Buhari recently advised Nigerian children to avoid acts that would lead them to drug abuse. The president, who gave the advice at this year’s Children’s Day celebration in Abuja, also enjoined the children to concentrate on their studies. He equally expressed worry that young children abuse drugs and lamented that the abuse of drugs across the country has predisposed many children to some mental illnesses. The president observed that due to the drug menace, some children have dropped out of school while others engaged in cultism and other criminal activities. The president’s advice was in tandem with the theme of the event: ‘Drug Abuse among Children: Addressing the Challenges.’
We laud the president for his fatherly advice and urge the children to heed it. The effect of drug abuse among children can no longer be hidden with the rising cases of suicide involving some of them.
It is, therefore, worrisome that primary school pupils are reportedly involved in drug abuse. Some of them use weapons to intimidate other pupils and even teachers. Without doubt, the nation’s future will be blighted if the drug abuse menace among children is not urgently tackled.
It is disturbing that some parents are not even aware that their children are involved in drug abuse until they become drug addicts.
Two of the most popular drugs abused by Nigerian children are tramadol, a pain-relieving tablet, and codeine, a cough syrup. Other substances being abused by young Nigerians include marijuana, rohypnol, cinol, ephedrine, diazepam, methamphetamine and flakka. Many of the youths mix medical-grade mentholated spirit with cola drinks to create a potent cocktail that will make them feel high. There is no doubt that drug abuse has ruined the lives of many children and youths.
As commendable as the president’s advice is, it should be pointed out that the health authorities have not done much to end the scourge. For instance, young people abuse marijuana across the country on a daily basis. Alcoholic drinks mixed with herbs are sold at the various bus stops and motor parks. These drinks are also consumed by teenagers.
The consequences of drug abuse on children are dire. According to toxicologists, most of the substances abused by children and youths produce effects similar to anaesthetics, which slow down the body’s functions and produce an initial high that comes with a loss of inhibition, drowsiness, light-headedness and agitation. Apart from its ability to heighten the users’ predilection for criminality, illicit drug use causes mental health problems such as depression and suicide.
It is heart-warming that the president has pledged to review the National Drug Control Master Plan 2015-2019 with a focus on drug control and consumption. Last year, the Federal Government placed restriction on the use, importation and sale of codeine as a cough syrup without prescription.
It is good that the National Drug and Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) have developed information and education and communication materials for a nationwide awareness campaign against drug abuse. It is commendable that the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Education and other stakeholders are currently embarking on public awareness campaigns on the consequences of drug abuse in schools. However, the war against drug abuse must commence from the home. The campaign against consumption of illicit drugs and other substances must be led by parents. They should be more involved in the lives of their children and act as their role models. Children should be counselled to stay away from drugs and avoid people that abuse drugs. We enjoin the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) to monitor the contents of programmes, films and songs aired on radio and television to ensure that they do not glorify illicit drugs or praise their dealers and users.
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