Acting Medical Director of Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital (FNPH),Yaba,Lagos, Dr. Richard Adebayo, is a consultant psychiatrist and clinical psychologist. In this interview, he highlights the causes of substance abuse and the implication for the society.
What is substance abuse in medical parlance?
It is the use of chemical components or substances that have the ability to alter the functioning of the brain by either stimulating the brain unnecessarily or depressing the brain unnecessarily so that at the end of the day, the individual becomes used to it (he cannot live his or her life without it; his life revolves around it; he has to take it). He has this burning desire and compulsion to take it every now and then, since he cannot do, live and cope without these substances.
Why are youths abusing these substances?
There are several factors responsible. One key thing is availability and affordability; you abuse what is available. You do not abuse what is scarce. Even though you want to abuse what is scarce, once it is not available, you will meet a brick wall. For example, India hemps abound; we even plant them in some parts of Nigeria. Furthermore, it is cheap. A roll of it may goes for about N20 or N50. So, what is cheap and easily available is easily abused.
Pain relieving drugs, alcohol and paraga are easily available. Alcohol remains the major constituents of herbs and drugs people hawk about on the streets and buses. It is only people who have money who can go as far as looking for cocaine heroin, which are more expensive than cannabis.
Individual exposure may also be a factor. Someone who has been exposed to substances at an early age may see it as part of life. For instance, parents who abuse substances and who send their children to go and buy tobacco (tobacco is also one of those substances commonly abused), may be creating problems for their children. You will agree with me that tobacco can be source locally and can be refined in form of cigarettes. Parents who drink in presence of their children or send their children to buy cigarettes for them may be exposing those children to substance abuse. We have seen parents who take cannabis breed children who take such substances. The home is the first mentoring school for every individual. So, the kind of parenting or family dynamics you are from can also sometimes determine your social habits.
Also, your first mentors are your parents before the music superstars become your mentors later on in life.
Another key factor is peer pressure. Youths do not want to be seen as the odd person. Due to peer pressure, some youths smoke and belong to secret cults, where alcohol and cannabis abuse form part of the initiation activities.
Another thing is the way we use technology, especially in advertisement.’Successful’ celebrities and personalities are often portrayed in advertisements smoking cigarettes or taking alcohol in advertisement. It is very common to see young persons, surrounded by young girls and Porsche cars, drinking alcohol and puffing cigarettes in some of our musical videos. Young people can have this erroneous belief that substance abuse is a sign to show that one is a celebrity, a high-class person and successful person. In reality, some of these celebrities are ruined by drugs. But our youths do not realised that all that glitters is not gold. Today, it is sympathetic to know that many leaders of today and tomorrow, the youths, are ruining their lives. You only need to pay a visit to our drug units and see young budding talents dying gradually as a result of substance abuse.
What are the implications of this or the person and society?
The implications are obvious. The sense of judgment of an individual that is hooked on drugs is impaired. Danfo drivers who have taken paraga or soak his brain in alcohol will begin to drive against traffic on top speed because his sense of perception has been altered. Furthermore, he will make avoidable mistakes because his judgment is impaired. Unfortunate the vehicle is loaded with about 18 passengers. He is not only a danger to himself but to all those in his vehicle and other road users.
People under the influence of alcohol can unleash unprovoked terror on others in form of rape and violence.
Also, their productivity will go down. An individual who under the influence of substance abuse may eventually failed to be attentive either in school or at work. As a student, he will start recording low grades. After away, it will become obvious that this person is a wreck to himself,as his mates would have advanced more than him. Later on in life, some of them will begin to lose their self-esteem. So, suicide or deliberate self-harm will take over.
They may internalise their frustration on themselves or on others when they realise that their productivity lives have been wasted, especially when they see their former classmates in the secondary schools and universities doing well in the society. They think of suicide when they internalise it. But they can transfer the aggression to the society by getting angry on any little things, or they may start destroying cars or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). The society will see them are nuisance and their family after away will get fed up with them.