Some drug addicts in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, say depression, financial instability and peer pressure were some of the reasons why they took to drug abuse.
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria, respondents who cut across various
age groups argued that the pressure to make ends meet
caused their drug abuse.
The younger respondents stated that they took to the habit due to increased peer
pressure, adding that it increased their level of acceptance by helping them
blend into their desired peer groups.
They listed marijuana, cocaine, Refnol and codeine as some of the drugs they
regularly abuse, with alcohol, gin, soft drinks and spirits acting as ‘solvents.’
NAN reports that a recent documentary on prevalent codeine abuse led to a
Federal Government ban on cough syrups that contain codeine.
However, respondents told NAN that banning codeine would have minor
effect on drug abuse prevalence; alleging that it would increase the
black market value of the substance.
Twenty-eight-year-old postgraduate student, Ifeanyi,
said he started using illicit drugs early in his undergraduate
years following depression after he lost his father.
“You know, it is difficult to drop a habit that gives you so much peace.
When my father died during my undergraduate years,
I picked up the habit of smoking.
“I started smoking cigarette, but as the pain and pressure I felt increased,
I needed something stronger to numb the hurtful feelings,
and marijuana became an instant solution,” he said.
Ifeanyi noted that there was so much stereotype around drug and substance
addicts as they are usually seen as ‘never-do-well.’
He said, “I agree that the habit is bad and it has medical side effects;
but everybody has one bad habit or the other;
moreover, depression is very real.
“People think highly of me because of my educational background,
but the moment they find out I use marijuana,
they start stereo-typing me,” he added.
Similarly, 46-year-old Callistus, a businessman, said that he slipped into
‘continuous overwhelming’ sadness when he lost his business
four years ago.
“I started smoking marijuana four years ago when I lost my business and
could not fend for my family; I also tried codeine for a while.
“We could not feed and I felt less than a man,
all my esteem slipped away by the pressure and shame.
“I needed an escape and drugs helped. My business is back now,
but I cannot stop, although my abuse is beginning to reduce,” he said.
He said that he hid his drug abuse from his three sons
because he did not want them to take to the habit,
as he was aware of the health implications.
“I know my drug habit is really bad and I honestly wish I can stop; but it saved me,
although people will not believe it.
“The drugs kept my spirit up; else,
I would have committed suicide,” Callistus added.
However, 19-year-old Angela, an undergraduate,
said that drug abuse has become a pre-requisite for acceptance in various peer groups.
“I don’t find anything wrong in taking Refnol or codeine because all my friends do
it and you don’t want to be the odd one out,” she said.
Reflecting on the history of her substance abuse, Angela told NAN that it started about
a year ago when she attended a party in company with her friends.
“I didn’t want to take anything because of all the stories that older people had told
me about drugs and they (her friends) laughed at me.
I tried it and the drugs really made you feel good.
“I don’t think I can hang out with people who don’t want to get ‘high,’
they are boring. I am young and this is the time to do all these things,” Angela added.
However, she confessed that her parents and relatives are not aware of her drug abuse,
as she dreads judgement from older people.
A psychologist, Mr. Adura Daramola, confirmed that stress and trauma could lead to
and heighten drug abuse, especially since people want to escape
reality during these times.
“Because most drugs act on the ‘reward and pleasure’ part of the
brain and create a sense of high or euphoria,
it is easy for stressed and depressed people to fall into routine of using them.
“Before long, they become addicted and need these drugs such as cocaine or
Refnol to stay happy and elevated.
“The drugs, however, cause long-term damage to their brains,” Daramola said.
He added that during low moments, it is best to seek therapy or be around a loving
environment instead of self-medicating or using anti-depressants.
Daramola said, “Soon, one can become addicted and ending that addiction takes a long journey.”