Wild, wild life of drugs and booze among youths - News and More

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Monday, 6 November 2017

Wild, wild life of drugs and booze among youths

They are driven by curiosity,adventure  –Expert

Wale Olaniyi was introduced to alcohol at age 14, cigarette at 15 and when he was 17, he introduced himself to marijuana. Now, Olaniyi is 23 and he already considers himself a veteran in the use of illicit drugs.
As he sits on a wooden bench at a secluded spot at Tarmac, a popular hang-out in Ogba area of Lagos, he mutters something to himself as he carefully rolls a joint. He lights it up and puffs on it serenely. His next words seem to roll out of his mouth in a similar fashion – slowly and calmly.

“Sometimes, when people talk about a journalist, they say he is a seasoned journalist. Just the same way, I’m an expert in this,” he says with palpable confidence.

Olaniyi smokes at least three special grades of marijuana, including Skunk and Arizona, and also enjoys taking codeine.

“I’ve been smoking weed for six years and I know good weed by its colour, smell and other things. One of the reasons why I like codeine is that it doesn’t mess you up like alcohol and you won’t misbehave like when you are drunk. It calms you; it makes you feel like you have N1bn in your account when you don’t have N1,000.

“I’ve tried to stop several times but it feels like I can’t live without it,” he says.

Olaniyi is a university dropout but as the conversation shifts to his failure to complete his university education, he chooses not to discuss it.

Unlike Olaniyi, Godwin is not a dropout. But he was just as experienced as Olaniyi in the abuse of substances until a drug testing at his university exposed and got him a suspension.

His parents almost practically bundled him to a rehabilitation home to get him cleaned up.

He recalls his experience when he first took marijuana, describing it as unpleasant. He was in company with a group of friends who were regular weed smokers and feeling so confident of himself, he took it.

“I remember drifting or rather floating. I felt very light and giddy. People were talking all around me but it felt like they were some distance away. I was having various sensations that I could not explain. Various voices were speaking to me like they were asking me to do things, but a tiny voice in my mind kept me in check. I had heard about people who ran mad after taking weed and I felt as if I was going mad too. I was feeling very uncomfortable and had to lie down,” he says.

But somehow, Godwin returned to it and the habit kicked in. He was into marijuana, booze, codeine and any other substance that could get him high.

High incidence of substance abuse

The recent much publicised deaths of three men – Umueke Tagbo, Olugbenga Abiodun, aka DJ Olu, and Chime Amaechi – said to be associates of star artiste, David Adeleke, aka Davido, have again brought the rampant abuse of booze and drugs to fore.

Olu and Amaechi, both 25, were found dead in a car on Banana Island in Lagos, three days after Tagbo died at a bar in the Lekki area of the state after allegedly taking 10 shots of Tequila. He died on his birthday.

Tests later detected high concentration of alcohol (Bacardi) and Topiramate, a medication for epilepsy and/or migraines in Tagbo’s system.

Footage from a CCTV camera that captured Tagbo’s last night at a club in Lagos, showed him looking intoxicated and lurching from side to side.

The police also recovered substances suspected to be hard drugs from the car in which Olu and Amaechi’s bodies were found.

Dr. Ogonnaya Ndupu is the Programme Director at Freedom Foundation, a non-profit organisation which has House of Refuge as a sister body to cater for the rehabilitation needs of drug and alcohol dependent persons.

Ndupu, a Consultant Psychiatrist, says there are indications that the incidence of drug abuse among youths is on the increase.

She says, “There appears to be an increase in the incidence of drug abuse evident by more reported cases in the youth and also more cases of substance dependence requiring treatment and rehabilitation.

“It’s difficult to pin point the exact time this rise started because of scarcity of records. However, recently there have been more public awareness and concerns about the rampant drug abuse both locally and internationally. As of 2017, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports 29. 5 million people with substance use disorder, which is a steady rise compared to previous years.

“And yes, we have seen an increased demand for rehabilitation services in the last six months. We have an average of five to seven calls weekly, making enquiries and requesting for our services and sometimes more. In the last 12 months, we have recorded almost three hundred cases of people with substance use disorders from local communities like Mushin, Akala and Empire (all in Lagos). In addition we have a waiting list of people pleading to be helped with treatment and rehabilitation.”

Similarly, a source at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, says there has been an increase in the demand for the facility’s services now more than before, particularly by youths.

“There is an increase in the use of illicit drugs among our youths. We have a number of youths brought to the hospital for mental related illnesses. They come in with all forms of mental derangement related to the use of drugs,” the source says. “We have a big battle on our hands now. The unit for drug-related cases has 60 beds but the spaces are not enough. If we discharge one person today, 10 others are waiting to take up the space. We have similar hospitals at Benin City, Kaduna, Abuja, Enugu, Calabar, and in all these places, the facilities are overstretched.”

According to the source, the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital has about 500 bed-spaces to cater for the needs of all its patients.

“But if the whole hospital is converted for the use of drug-related cases alone, we will have enough patients to treat for the next 100 years. If not that we turn many people back, we would have the whole hospital full with people with drug-related mental illnesses,” the source adds.

Just this month, a sister organisation of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Christ Against Drug Abuse Ministry, launched a rehabilitation centre as its answer to checking the consequences of the rampant abuse of drugs in the country.

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, who praised the church’s initiative to join the fight against the menace of drug abuse, implored “parents, guardians and care givers to be vigilant in order to detect early signs of drug addiction in their children and seek help from appropriate quarters.”

Findings also show that some institutions have put measures in place on their campuses in a bid to help student victims. For instance, the Vice-Chancellor of Babcock University, Prof. Ademola Tayo, recently noted that the university has a strong support system to rehabilitate students suffering from drug abuse.

Some private universities also conduct drug testing on students to determine the presence or absence of specified drugs in their system.

It was one of such tests that revealed the presence of high concentration of alcohol, codeine and marijuana in Godwin’s system.

The popularity of codeine

Codeine, as it is popularly called in Nigeria, goes by many names across the world. It is also called sizzurp, purple drink, syrup, lean and dirty sprite. It is basically a mix of codeine-based prescription cough syrup, soft drink and any other substance of the user’s choosing to give more colour or flavour.

A bottle of codeine-based cough syrup that should normally cost less than N500 goes for about N1,800 because of the huge demand it attracts. The cough syrup contains a drug called promethazine, which acts as a sedative, and when abused, it intoxicates and creates a feeling of euphoria.

Findings show that abusers often mix the syrup with Sprite or Coke, with some of them taking as many as eight bottles of the drug a day to get high on it.

According to users, codeine dulls the senses, but to create a good balance, a brand of powdered drug with caffeine as one of its active ingredients, is added to the mix.

“It helps to counter the effects of the codeine in the system,” Olaniyi says.

A 2014 report by getmedicin.org notes that sizzurp gained popularity in the United States in 1980s and 1990s, particularly in the underground rap scene. It adds that recent references to the drug via social media, music videos and lyrics have made it popular among teenagers and college students who have heard it mentioned in hip-hop and rap music.

It is believed that the drug was made popular in Nigeria by Lil Wayne, an American hip-hop artist, who has sung about codeine and has habit of shooting videos while partying with a Styrofoam cup, which is known as his traditional way of taking the drug.

Since 2013, Wayne has suffered multiple seizures and has had to be hospitalised on more than one occasion, a condition that some experts abroad have linked to his abuse of codeine.

Similarly, another rapper, Young Money, who was known to have also abused the drug, suffered seizures in 2013. And such an overdose was linked to the death of Pimp C, a rapper who had boasted about his love for the drug in his track – ‘Sippin’ on Some Syrup.’

Sadly, findings show that the use of codeine is now common among secondary school pupils in Lagos.

A secondary school teacher in Lagos, who simply identified herself as Mrs. Olubunmi, who confirms the rampant abuse of codeine among pupils in the state, says they put the mixture in their water bottles to give the impression that they are drinking water.

“It’s common now for pupils as young as 12 years old to abuse drugs. Some take marijuana and codeine, which is now very popular. When they put the mixture of codeine and soft drink in water bottles, no one will suspect that they are taking drugs,” she says.

Role of celebrities

It also appears that the rampant abuse of substances among youths can be traced to the way celebrities glamorise and romanticise about it in their songs and on social media, setting off a chain reaction.

An addiction consultant, Olusesan Samuel-Kayode, notes that many Nigerian celebrities openly flaunt their use of substances, which get the attention of their teeming fans, who regard them as role models.

He says, “The celebrities believe that it makes them hyperactive and gives them inspiration, which is actually wrong. Their fans, who are mostly youths fantasise about these lifestyles they see on TV, social media and the internet.

“They go into drugs too and it becomes difficult for them to kick the habit. Some of these youths will also have other youths they mentor in their neighbourhoods, they introduce them to these drugs and the trend continues. When they don’t have money, they do anything, including committing crime to sustain the addiction.”

A social worker, who abused drugs, including heroin for 25 years before he was rehabilitated, Mr. Ade Daniel, confirms the situation, saying, “a drug addict will beg, steal and go into other forms of crime to buy his drugs.

“He is only interested in things related to drugs. All he values is the substance and to him, all activities must be drug-related. Overtime, there is a regression; he loses his job, his means of livelihood, becomes unhappy, but he cannot help himself.

“I have seen people who are not homosexuals, but will rather let a man sleep with them to get money to buy drugs.”

Daniel says some people become con artists, popularly called Yahoo-Yahoo or Yahoo plus in Nigeria, to fund their drug addiction while some, who are already criminals, abuse drugs to maintain their criminal lifestyles.

“Some people are not naturally given to armed robbery or conning others, but when they are on drugs, their conscience is severed and they can pull the trigger. And for some of them, after the drug wears off, they keep going to it because it will keep them from seeing images of people they have killed. This sustains the addition for them.”

Investigation however reveals types of substances abused in the country vary from region to region.

In the South, the commonly abused drugs are Rohypnol, Tramadol, Codeine, alcohol, marijuana and cocaine and heroin, among the rich.

Rohypnol is used as a pre-medication in surgical procedures while Tramadol is an opiate painkiller. But they give a feeling of euphoric high when taken in large quantities.

According to Olaniyi, mixing Tramadol with alcohol before sex makes him perform much better in bed.

“You’re like a horse; when you chew Tramadol or mix it with alcohol, you are actually releasing the drug faster into the body,” he says.

Apart from intoxicating users, Rohypnol is also used by male youths as a date-rape drug to get to have sex with ladies.

But in the North, the craze is largely about codeine, lizard dung, glue sniffing, sewer gas, seed of Zakami, Premium Motor Spirit and nail polish.

Incidentally, the Nigerian Senate recently raised the alarm that over three million bottles of codeine syrup were consumed daily in Kano and Jigawa states in northern Nigeria. It added that the 19 northern states of the country were under serious threat due to drug abuse.

Glue sniffing is often connected to low and middle income areas where alcohol and other drugs are considered unavailable or too expensive because they are cheap and easy to get.

As it stands, there is a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol in many northern states but there is however no information that connects the ban to the popularity of glue sniffing in the region.

People who sniff glue aim to get intoxicated by the fumes from the solvents found in the adhesives. Findings show that some abusers empty the substance into a polythene bag and then put their face inside, breathing deeply. Some abusers also pour it onto a handkerchief and inhale, while some prefer to heat before inhaling it.

It is said that after inhaling glue, an abuser experiences a feeling of euphoria that will make them feel capable of doing anything.

Ndupu, however, warns that “drug dependence extends into every facet of an individual’s life, whether home life, workplace, social activities, physical or emotional well-being. Without help for addiction, it is uncommon for an individual to continue managing their life successfully while still engaged with their substance of choice.”

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