Common substance abuse

The spectre of having angry looking young people roaming through our streets is a vision that must concern every parent and guardian in our environment today.
Not only are we facing the advent of cultism in the secondary schools, not to mention the tertiary institutions, we are daily inundated with reports of very young people being involved in totally abysmal acts of cruelty and vandalism whose only result usually is tragedy and loss.
Several days ago, a contact on the social media platform Whatsapp, sent me gory images of several decapitated young men’s bodies apparently in a fall-out of cult-related violence. The images were as graphic as they were telling. Within the same time-frame, I have been in contact inadvertently, with a young woman introduced to cocaine from the age of nine years. She graduated rapidly through the ranks from drug user, to courier, to kingpin. The transformation through the stages was of course irreversible.
The victim of the latest abuse described above was apprehended at some point on the other side of the Atlantic, which was very fortunate for her, because being a minor, she was sent to a remand home for juveniles where she simply became more street-wise and smarter. She developed the survival instincts of a killer as well and became as dangerous as any of the angry young men mentioned above. However, it is not all the time that these people are constrained to using such popular drugs as cocaine and heroin and crack. Some others have limited their experimentation and usage of drugs to simply tobacco and alcohol. Others have thrown methamphetamine into the mix and marijuana. Some others now use prescription medications as well with no less potent consequences.
Some of the new products being used by youngsters will be named and described in brief in the following paragraphs with relevant suggestions about how to curtail their availability. The first of the substances is petrol. Many young boys and increasingly, girls as well, get their emotional highs by sniffing petrol fumes. As a result of the fuel scarcity now holding the nation by the scruff of the neck, petrol has become more available than usual in private hands because of the need to get it into homes for the powering of generators. Therefore, access to the highly inflammable liquid is now looser than ever and there is also a spike in the number of people getting high on sniffing its fumes. In the previous years, many people who have come to depend on this toxic product, used to sneak into their parents’ car garages to sniff it a little at a time by simply opening the lid of their fuel tanks.
The other compound now in common use as a drug of addiction is glue. This is made from complex hydrocarbons that give off a distinctive aroma as a finished product. Some young folks have found the use for it other than for the joinery and repair business for which it was intended by its manufacturers. When you see a young boy or girl unduly holding on to a can of glue even when there is no immediate need for its use, you must be alert to the fact that that child is up to no good. It is at that stage that such a youngster can be educated about the harmful practice in which they are engaged and the adverse consequences that await them.
Prescription drugs such as Tramadol, a powerful pain killer, is now a popular addition to the ammunition of these folks. A young adult in his early twenties once told me that he used it not for its analgesic property, but because it made him feel on top of the world. In addition, he lectured me, that the medication also had a potent erectile effect on his penis. So he often used it whenever he knew his girlfriend would be visiting. That young man had had a physical altercation with his father and both were injured which is how I came about all that information as I was the emergency room doctor who treated them both.

Another prescription medication similarly used by many is the potent pain killer Pentazocine. With the influx of cheap generic medications from several continents into our country, it is not surprising that so many people can obtain such easy access to medications such as this one. This is a drug that produces euphoric effects. It is an opioid. One ampoule of it is cheaper than a pet bottle of Coke. It is no wonder then that any smart kid who has fleeced someone of as little as two hundred naira can afford several of this drug. Yours truly knows someone too who is now a double amputee, having developed a dependence on this drug and even learnt to inject herself with it. She graduated from taking the injection through an intramuscular route to the intravenous route. She graduated also from taking the contents of an ampoule at a time to two, then three and later, even more than that. Yet, it never seemed to be enough to help her combat the war she waged against pain. In due course, she damaged the blood vessels in one upper limb and had it amputated. Over time, with the help of both friends and neighbourhood nurses, she damaged the other arm and also had it amputated.
Among the intelligentsia, there is a fondness for drugs like Fentanyl, a potent analgesic used often in the operating room and in the intensive care unit and also with Ketamine, an anaesthetic that produces euphoria and a feeling of being able to fly. These drugs are available to the people who know where to get them and how. Many, of course, obtain them on self recognition and no questions are asked. It is a sad testimony to the fact that the process of drug control in our country remains a far cry from what can be described as adequate or even safe. Worse, the very people who sell these drugs are frequently unaware of what they are marketing or what they are used for, not to mention to what uses they can be put beyond those indications named by the manufacturer. For example, who would say that petrol, a now ubiquitous good in Nigeria, can be used as a form of substance abuse by youths?
Having discussed the intelligentsia and their inclinations, it is only fair that we also talk about the other Nigerians often at the opposite end of the moral spectrum; the rural poor and the inner city dwellers, who also often use substances of abuse. You may believe this or reject it but it is true. They sniff the fumes that are emitted by their pit latrines. It is not something you and I may be able to imagine but it happens.
Pit latrines emit methane fumes, the same thing that you will find in petrol. The effect is said to be exhilarating if you can ignore the smell. Let us all watch our youths with a keen eye and intervene robustly when they are perceived to be going astray.

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