Friday, February 23, 2024

Drug abuse: Why religious leaders should hands off rehabilitation – Experts

  • Reports show commercial transporters work longer hours with substance aid

BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

Mental health experts have raised the alarm that drug and substance abuse is increasing at an alarming rateacross the country. They are therefore calling for concerted efforts at tackling the menace.

According to the experts, the challenges posed by worsening substance abuse can be better addressed ifreligious leaders always refer drug abusers to professionals rather than opting for spiritual means of rehabilitating them.

While noting that parents always want to consult their spiritual leaders whenever their wards show symptoms of drug abuse, the advocates stressed the need for clerics to direct the affected persons to mental health consultants and other healthcare professionals and not to resort to prayers alone.

Ife Bamidele, a drug-free advocate, disclosed that the cases of substance abuse involving the reckless use of opioids, codeine and tramadol, among others, were prevalent among children between the ages of four and 25.

He charged parents and guardians to always be cautious of the kind of drinks they give to their wards, addingthat they should watch their children’s constant consumption of some substances so that they would be able to seek help on time.

The mental health campaigner and Associate Professor of Law identified spiritual leaders and traditional rulers as key stakeholders in the bid to win the war against drug abuse, saying most people approach them for solution to issues of drug abuse.

“The menace of drug abuse is deadly and you will be shocked that children and youth are mostly affected. You see children between ages of 4, 5 and 7 abusing one form of substance or the other. The youths are also involved. You go to our schools and you will see that majority take opioids, soft drinks, codeine and tramadol to aid their academic performance,” Bamidele said.

Advising clerics against harbouring drug addicts and abusers in the name of treatment, the expert noted that, “Our religious leaders and traditional rulers are key to the rehabilitation and recovery that drug users seek. We all know that prayers are very important to whatever we do as believers, be you Christian, Muslim or Traditional worshipper, but the issue of drug abuse is not what non-professionals can handle. They need to refer affected persons to mental health consultants, psychiatrists and mental health experts.

“I also want to urge parents and guardians to watch their kids, monitor their intakes and speak to professionals on time. There are hospitals, accredited rehabilitation centres for us to approach. I want to assure them that healthcare workers are available and ready to assist and I want to urge professionals to always uphold confidentiality.”

While bemoaning the paucity of rehabilitation centres in the country, Bamidele, however, urged religious institutions to make use of their members who are health professionals and train them further on how to attend to drug abusers.

“There is a need for all stakeholders to fight this menace. Let us reduce the number of families who are mourning and crying, let us reduce the number of deaths, and then let us encourage people who are affected by drug use disorder to seek help. It’s not as if we are encouraging people to abuse drugs, it’s because we have discovered that majority of the people who currently use drugs are victims of traffickers, and the family begin to suffer for life either because they are not able to afford the rehabilitation money or they don’t even know how to go about it. The NDLEA has issued a toll-free line that people can contact for immediate help, it is 080010203040,” Bamidele said.

Another advocate against drug abuse, Kenneth Anetor, said the latest report on the issue revealed that about 30 million people in West Africa abuse drugs and that majority of these persons are Nigerians.

Anetor, Executive Director, A New Thing International Foundation, disclosed that some educated people and professionals abuse drugs to meet up with expectations at their workplaces.

Meanwhile, some commercial transporters have revealed how they take some substances to empower themselves to work for long hours. Some of them who spoke with The Point under the condition of anonymity said they ingest substances like alcohol, codeine, and tramadol, among others.

A commercial motorcycle rider said, “I can’t really tell you lies, hardly would you see an okada man or commercial driver who doesn’t take drugs or narcotics to sustain himself. I used to take tramadol with some herbs and it assisted me greatly in making the money I used in building my house. When others are relaxing in the evening, I am still operating my motorcycle and I do close sometimes at 3:00 am. I make more money.”

A commercial bus driver also corroborated the okada man’s submission. He said, “A good number of us even use drugs to prevent sleeping while on duty. Some of us are even addicted to kolanut and some tablets. That’s the reality, especially now that there is cold, we have to take alcohol to warm our body.”

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