10.8 million Men and 3.4 million Women use Drugs. …376, 000 high risk drug users in Nigeria

By Constance Meju Photos by Gift Jonah There is widespread drug usage in Nigeria. A recent sensitization training of influencer stakeho

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By Constance Meju

Photos by Gift Jonah

There is widespread drug usage in Nigeria. A recent sensitization training of influencer stakeholders by the MTN Foundation, ASAP in Port Harcourt has disclosed that one in every seven Nigerian aged between 15 and 64 years, has used drug in the past. An estimated 10.8 million men and 3.4 million women use drug.

This was part of findings of a national survey on drug usage and health conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics Center for Research and Information on Substance Abuse with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime with funding from the European Union.

The survey listed women as highest drug abusers with one of every four indulging in hard drugs while the highest age bracket of users is the 25-39 year olds. Lowest levels of drug users are those below 24 years although the use of Amphetamines and ecstasy drugs are high among young people. Non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids and cough syrups were found among older people aged between 45 and 64 years.

The report revealed that 376, 000 high risk drug users are in the country and one in every high risk drug user, injects drugs. As many as 80,000 Nigerians inject drugs and nearly 90 per cent of them are opioid users.

 High risk drug users were defined as persons who had used opioids, crack cocaine or amphetamines in the past one year as well as those who have used it at least five times in the last 30 days. The most common drugs injected in the last 12 months include pharmaceutical opioids followed by cocaine and heroin. Opioid injection is 75 per cent.

Also, more men injected drugs (78per cent) but women were more likely than men to inject heroin and women who inject drugs are more likely than men to engage in high risk sexual behaviours with increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Among those who inject drugs, nearly half admitted to having used a needle or syringe.

On results of drug usage abuse, the survey revealed that there was self-related prevalence of infections among high risk users including, people who inject drugs, PWID. However, while there may be self-reporting bias, participants at the sensitization programme were told that the 2014 national data on HIV among PWID based on bio-behaviourial surveillance covering six states of the federation reported that 3.4 per cent of PWIDs were HIV positive.

An estimated 95 per cent reported using more than one substance either concurrently o subsequently, in the past 12 months while the general population of drug users in the country was put at 42 per cent.

Linking drug usage to crime, the survey stated that a quarter of high risk drug users had been arrested for drug-related offences during the period under review and many users had been arrested for theft (12 per cent), sex work (five per cent), burglary (four per cent) and shoplifting (two per cent). The average age of first time offenders was 24 years and generally, high risk drug users were arrested on an average of three times in a lifetime.

The survey also revealed that there are not enough centers to take care of drug users in the country despite the huge number of those seeking to kick the habit. Treatment for problem drug use is mainly available in tertiary hospitals, some non-governmental organization and faith-based centers while treatment is through in-patient and limited out-patient services offered in drug units within some hospitals and drug treatment services are free but expensive, running into hundreds of thousands.

According to the survey, 12 per cent of high drug users had received treatment for a drug problem over the period of drug usage and in the past 12 months; only four per cent of drug users received treatment.

Listing major barriers to drug treatment in Nigeria, the survey noted that 42 per cent of high risk drug users opted for treatment but were unable to access it as a result of prohibitive cost, fear and social stigma, non-availability of treatment centers and lack of information on where or how to access needed treatment.

In response to drug issues between 2013 and 2019, participants were told that under  the UNODC Project, tagged ‘Response to drugs  and Related Organized Crimes in Nigeria,’ set up to step up efforts in fighting hard drug production, trafficking and use as well as curbing related organized crimes including counterfeit narcotics and psychotropic, stakeholders in the country, including, the NDLEA, ministries  of Health, Budget and National Planning and Education, the Judiciary (Federal High Court), the Nigeria Police and the Prison Service have jointly recorded some achievement.

Impact on evidence based information on drug use, drug crime has accordingly, improved policy impact and programming , enhanced technical and operational capacity in frontline agencies and services have led to targeted intervention on drug organized crime and related activities as well as improvement in internal scrutiny processes.

Major policy achievements include the development of the National Drug Control Master Plan 2015 – 2019, National Minimum Standards of drug treatment for Nigeria (2015), national guidelines on estimation of narcotics, precursors and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes.

The body has also provided drug treatment to over 1200 health practitioners and established and support to 11 model drug treatment centers and regional centers as well as developed a national policy guideline for drug counseling for NDLEA.

For improvement in the status of Nigeria currently a key transit point for drug trafficking and producer of cannabis and ATS, which has made drug usage widespread in the six geo-political zones, participants  called for removal/reduction of various barriers in place that prevent access to drug treatment services, adverse social and criminal justice consequences associated with drug use.

The programme noted that no one approach can end drug abuse and advised people to simply say ‘No to Drug’.

Resource persons were Maria Ilugbuhi and Olusesan Oshotemihin.

The sensitization on drugs and drug prevention, treatment and care (DPTC) held May 14 – 15 at the Ministry of Health, Rivers State Secretariat Complex, Port Harcourt and featured sessions on ‘The Drug Situation in Nigeria’, ‘Understanding the Concept of Supply  Reduction’, ‘Understanding the Concept of Drug Demand and Drug Harm Reduction’, ‘Drugs and Effects/Understanding Drug Dependency and Cause of Drug Use and Associated Stigma of Drug Uses.”

The report implies dangers to women’s health both as drug users and care givers to drug victims and even exposures to risk in the hands high risk drug users who end up abusing women. There is therefore need to support calls for improved services and vigilance and amplified calls to ‘Say No to Drugs’ as a way of reducing incidents of violent gender abuses like rape.

The training was for social influencers in the drug control area drawn from CSOs, media and faith-based organizations.

#Gender and Accountability


#Say No to Drugs

(With reports from Gift Jonah)

* Constance Meju is the publisher of Port Harcourt based National Point Newspaper; a dedicated gender equality and human rights advocate.