‘COVID-19 crisis has led to increased drug usage’

A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), the Christ Against Drug Abuse Ministry (CADAM), has raised fears over the increasing number of drug users and those suffering from drug use disorders. In this interview with Evelyn Osagie, the Director-General of CADAM, Dr. Dokun Adedeji, expresses concern about the effect of the pandemic on Nigeria’s drug crisis and more.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic added any new dynamics to the drug crisis in Nigeria?

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Yes! The drug trade was somewhat impacted upon, but this also increased the spate of experimentations as well as the concoction of various substances to replace the regular drugs of use.

Misuse of even normally prescribed medications is possible to assuage the pressure brought on by the strictures of the times.

The situational crisis also has led to increased drug usage to help ameliorate the severity of the prevailing circumstances.

What is the overview of the drug crisis in Nigeria between 2019 and now?

We believe from the figures available from the 2019 UNODC drug report and also from our own field and practical experiences that the only way to sum up the drug use situation in Nigeria is to simply say that we are in an epidemic!

Is it true that suicide is on the rise during this pandemic?

We have no facts as regards the increased rate of suicide but this seems so from global and local information gleaned from the media.

U.N. warns of global mental health crisis due to the pandemic, does Nigeria have any need to worry?

Nigeria, being part of the global population and facing the same health challenges, cannot have a different outcome.

What role can the government play to curb the menace, especially now?

The government has a major role in policy formulation to bring our mental health laws in tandem with global level, as well as provide the necessary infrastructure – as in physical, personnel and training plus equipment.

Government should provide care even at the primary healthcare level. Drug abuse and addiction is a health problem and should be seen as such

In your opinion, how can we curb the stigmatisation of recovered drug users like those who have graduated from your programme?

To deal with stigmatisation, the responsibility belongs to all of us. More hands should be on deck. The government can lead the way in giving employment to some of them as well as designate them as ambassadors to encourage those still struggling with addiction.

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The society on its own part must change its attitude to this group of people in every area of our relationship. We must strive to give them a second chance.

They need our support, understanding and love. There is increasing concern even now because of the scare of COVID-19, what is the government at all levels doing to help these drug victims for they are equally entitled to care like any other Nigerian citizen.

How is your organisation involved in the fight against drug misuse and abuse; and what new initiatives do you have to keep abreast with the times?

The COVID-19 crisis caused us to think of other avenues of reaching out to our beneficiaries and anyone who requires our services.

We started an online counselling service as well as phone-in consultancy services. To celebrate the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, our  Alumni with CADAM support, have organised a three-day online awareness programme from June 24 to 26, 2020 which focused on “Youths and Addiction, Addiction and Mental Health and Addiction: What can be done?”. This, they say, is their own way of giving back to society thereby helping others.

As a faith-based NGO, since its founding, CADAM has been involved in the tripod of activities which involves prevention, treatment and rehabilitation and aftercare services.

In a bite of what our experiences have been, we opened another centre at Abeokuta to cater to students and workers who spend three months in the programme.

We were in the process of starting training programmes for private and public establishments, in addition to the ongoing programmes in our institutions and churches, before the crisis interfered.

We were lucky that at the onset of the pandemic, we were to go on our normal break period. All our beneficiaries- the graduating ones and those in Phase 1 that were expected to return for Phase 2- had to leave for their various homes.

We only have in residence now just about 10 beneficiaries that have nowhere to return to. The Abeokuta centre was completely evacuated.

All the beneficiaries will be recalled to come and complete their programmes when we receive the government’s nod to resume operations.

Any message for Nigerians?

The best message for this time is encapsulated in the theme of this year’s World Drug Day celebration, “Better Knowledge For Better Care”. Substance abuse is a public health issue and must be so addressed.

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It is, therefore, imperative that we need more knowledge in order to be able to understand the undergirding factors related to substance abuse and consequently offer a better care system.

Just like any other health condition, it can be successfully managed with a good outcome. A lot of them are living independent and drug free lives in virtually all areas of human endeavour.

Source: The Nation Online Nigeria

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