– Psychologist, LOLADE OGUNTUYO
ENCOMIUM Weekly sought the professional opinion of a psychologist, Lolade Oguntuyo on the increase in the abuse of drugs by young Nigerians. She spoke on why more people are going into drugs, the effects on them and how addicts can overcome the problem. She had this to say…
“First, we need to understand what drug or substance abuse means. Drug abuse, also called substance abuse, is a maladaptive use of drug, resulting in impairment of functioning or distress which affects performance adequately. Chemical abuse as it is also known, is a disorder that is characterized by a destructive pattern of using a substance that leads to significant problems or distress.”
Why do you think more Nigerian youths are indulging in recreational drugs such as codeine, rohypnol, indian hemp, tramadol, etc?
People do drugs to feel different. If they’re depressed, they want to become happy. If they are stressed or nervous, they want to relax, and so on. One reason often heard from people using drugs is that they do them to feel good or look cool. Researchers say it does feel good because most drugs act directly on the pleasure center that is, the limbic system in the brain. The following are a list of reasons why.
They want to fit in – acceptance. No one wants to be the only one not participating or tagged un-cool. No one wants to be left out or seem un-grown. Meanwhile no grown or sensible adult would indulge in drug use. So sometimes they make bad decisions, like taking drugs, to cover-up their insecurities. It actually boils down to peer pressure.
They want to escape or relax. You’ll hear a lot of people saying things like “I am stressed”, “I am a frustated man”, “my folks are killing me,” “I really need to chill”. They want the feeling of euphoria, forgetting after the high goes the problem still remains.
They are bored. Take the current ASUU strike as an example, youths are energetic and their mind is always on a race, easily distracted and curious. When their mind is inactive, they want something “exciting”, hence they indulge in drug, instead of using this mind and time to do positive things. They lack creativity and drive so, a lot of people turn to drugs for a little excitement.
They want to rebel. Sometimes people turn to drugs not so much for themselves, but to make a statement against someone else, such as their families or society in general, especially when they want attention from their parents. Somehow taking drugs makes them feel bad and bad people are cool in their world.
They are cheap! It’s called “cheap high”. These pain killers or cough syrups are cheap, usually less than N500 compared to the amount a bottle of wine would cost. A drug addict told a local radio station in Kano that cough syrup with codeine makes him higher than beer or marijuana. Should he go broke, the addict said, “I resort to cheaper substances such as Tramadol, rubber solution or lizard’s faeces to feel high.” Some even go as far as mixing which causes jitters, nervous break down or out rightly kill you.
What are the effects on users?
We have to consider the physical and psychological effects of drug abuse and addiction. While the specific physical and psychological effects of drug abuse and addiction tend to vary based on the particular substance involved, the general effect of abuse or addiction to any drug can be devastating. Psychologically, intoxication with or withdrawal from a substance can cause everything from euphoria as with alcohol, ecstasy, or inhalant intoxication, to paranoia with marijuana or steroid intoxication, to severe depression or suicidal thoughts with cocaine or amphetamine withdrawal. In terms of effects on the body, intoxication with a substance can cause physical effects that range from marked sleepiness and slowed breathing as with intoxication with heroin or sedative hypnotic drugs, to the rapid heart rate of cocaine intoxication, or the tremors to seizures of drug withdrawal.
The following may occur or be exhibited.
Generally, the drug use might have impact on their life in ways that might not be expected. Life starts to befuddle them, the right isn’t known from left. One is left with blurred lines.
Academics: There is a decline in grades, absenteeism from school and other activities, and increased potential for dropping out of school are problems associated with adolescent substance abuse. Hawkins, Catalano, and Miller (1992) cite research indicating that a low level of commitment to education and higher truancy rates appear to be related to substance use among adolescents. Cognitive and behavioral problems experienced by alcohol- and drug-using youth may interfere with their academic performance and also present obstacles to learning for their classmates (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1992).
Physical health: Stress, Injuries due to accidents (such as car accidents), physical disabilities and diseases such as destruction of internal organs, and the effects of possible overdoses are among the health-related consequences of teenage substance abuse. Some people become violent beyond their own control. Disproportionate number of youth involved with alcohol and other drugs face an increased risk of death through suicide, homicide, accident and illness.
Mental health: Mental health problems such as depression, developmental lags, apathy, withdrawal, and other psychosocial dysfunctions frequently are linked to substance abuse among adolescents. Psychosis which means losing touch with reality may occur. Substance-abusing youth are at higher risk than non-users for mental health problems, including depression, conduct problems, personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide and suicide. Marijuana use, which is prevalent among youth, has been shown to interfere with short-term memory, learning and psychomotor skills. Motivation and psychosexual/emotional development also may be influenced (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1992).
Separation from families and friends: In addition to personal adversities, the abuse of alcohol and other drugs by youth may result in family crises and jeopardize many aspects of family life, sometimes resulting in family dysfunction. Both siblings and parents are profoundly affected by alcohol- and drug-involved youths (Nowinski, 1990). Substance abuse can drain a family’s financial and emotional resources (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1992). Also substance-abusing youths often are alienated and stigmatized by their peers and friends. No one wants to be seen or be friends with”a dope head or junkie”. Youths using alcohol and other drugs also often disengage from school and community activities, depriving their peers and communities of the positive contributions they might otherwise have made.
Social and economic consequences: The social and economic costs related to youth substance abuse are high. They result from the financial losses,loss of employment and distress suffered by alcohol- and drug-related crime victims, increased burdens for the support of adolescents and young adults who are not able to become self-supporting, and greater demands for medical and other treatment services for these youth (Gropper, 1985).
Youth delinquency: There is an undeniable link between substance abuse and delinquency. Arrest, adjudication, and intervention by the juvenile justice system are eventual consequences for many youth engaged in alcohol and other drug use. It cannot be claimed that substance abuse causes delinquent behavior or delinquency causes alcohol and other drug use. However, the two behaviors are strongly correlated and often bring about school and family problems, involvement with negative peer groups, a lack of neighborhood social controls, and physical or sexual abuse (Hawkins et al., 1987; Wilson and Howell, 1993). Possession and use of alcohol and other drugs are illegal for all youth. Beyond that, however, there is strong evidence of an association between alcohol and other drug use and delinquent behavior of juveniles. Substance abuse is associated with both violent and income-generating crimes by youth. This increases fear among community residents and the demand for juvenile and criminal justice services, thus increasing the burden on these resources. Gangs, drug trafficking, prostitution, and growing numbers of youth homicides are among the social and criminal justice problems often linked to adolescent substance abuse.
How can people who are addicted and would love to kick the habit successfully do it?
As always, the first thing to do when you have a problem you want to stop is to accept that there is a problem. Then talk with someone you trust, for example, a friend, counselor or family member so that he or she can help you on the road to recovery because it’s a tough road.
Find healthy ways to cope with stress: Since many people begin using drugs as a way to deal with stress and tension. The reality is, however, that drugs are only a temporary fix. Once a person comes down from drugs, they are likely to experience physical and psychological side effects that only intensify feelings of anxiety. Finding coping methods such as exercise or meditation can eliminate the urge to try drugs.
Seek therapy or counseling: It is not at all uncommon to experience feelings of depression. Many people experience highs and lows that can be difficult to cope with. Drug users often are people who are attempting to self-medicate for their psychological issues. The problem is that drugs do not treat mental issues themselves. They simply treat the symptoms. Working through problems with a mental health professional is a much more effective and long-lasting way of treating a psychological or emotional problem.
Maintain a lifestyle that makes you happy: Low self-esteem and depression are major triggers for drug abuse. It is easy to let one aspect of your life, such as work, become overwhelming, to the point that you do not enjoy or partake in other important aspects of your life.
Maintaining strong relationships and a healthy balance between physical and mental activity can help you maintain the stability that is needed to stay drug free.
Have things in your life that you care deeply about: Whether it’s a sport, artistic endeavor, or personal relationships, having something that you are passionate about motivates you to stay healthy and mentally and emotionally in shape. If you care deeply enough about the people and activities in your life, you are less likely to jeopardize them by experimenting with drugs.
It is important to know that the primary goals of drug-abuse or addiction treatment (also called recovery) are abstinence, relapse prevention – and rehabilitation. During the initial stage of abstinence, an individual who suffers from chemical dependency may need help avoiding or lessening the effects of withdrawal. That process is called detoxification or detox.
– DANIEL FAYEMI