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Checking drug abuse in schools

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A DRUG is defined as any natural or artificial substance, other than food that by its chemical or physical nature, alters structures or functions in the living organism. It is also defined according to their use. In pharmacology, it is defined as a chemical substance used in the treatment, cure, prevention, or diagnosis of disease or used to otherwise, enhance physical or mental well-being.

Psychoactive drugs are chemical substances that affect the function of the nervous system, altering perception, mood or consciousness. Recreational drugs are drugs that are not used for medicinal purposes, but are instead used for pleasures. These include alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, as well as other substances such as opiates and amphetamines. Drug abuse therefore, implies the use of a given drug in excessive dose levels, over an unjustified period of time, or outside the therapeutic indications. Also, when people and indeed school aged children use these drugs for purposes other than what it is meant for, perhaps not fully aware of the consequences, it is called drug abuse.

Talking about hazardous use of drugs among students in secondary schools and universities, Mr Steve Nnaji, a pharmacist has this to say: “The initiation to drug and alcohol abuse early in life has exposed adolescents to voluntary drug consumption, smoking, drinking and substance abuse, which have become a threat to our nation, and I think that all the stakeholders should be worried that more and more students in our secondary schools and universities are fast joining the drug train, drinking and smoking away their future for the pleasure of getting high, hence, posing a threat to the health and safety of the students, family,  community and the country at large. Virtually any substance whose ingestion can result in a euphoric (“high”) feeling can be abused. While many are aware of the abuse of legal substances like alcohol or illegal drugs like marijuana and cocaine, less well known is the fact that inhalants like household cleaners are some of the most commonly abused substances, alongside Indian hemp, which is commonly produced in Nigeria.

“These are some of the drugs and types of drugs that are commonly abused and/or result in dependence by school aged children and the general public around here: Cocaine: A drug that tends to stimulate the nervous system. Cocaine can be snorted in powder form, inhaled when in the form of rocks (“crack” cocaine), or injected when made into a liquid.

Nicotine: The addictive substance found in cigarettes, is actually one of the most addictive substances that exist. In fact, nicotine addiction is often compared to the intense

addictiveness associated with opiates like heroin.

Phencyclidine: Commonly referred to as PCP. This drug can cause the user to feel extremely paranoid, become quite aggressive and to have an unusual amount of physical strength. This can make the individual quite dangerous to others. Sedative, hypnotic, or anti-anxiety drugs: As these substances quell or depress the nervous system, they can cause death by respiratory arrest of the person who either uses these drugs in overdose or who mixes one or more of these drugs with other nervous system depressant drugs (like alcohol, another sedative drug, or an opiate)”.

“Young people who persistently abuse substances often experience an array of problems, such as academic difficulties, health-related problems (including mental health), and poor peer relationships. Additionally, there are consequences for family members, the community and the entire society. The negative effects can come in diverse forms like academic effects (declining grades, absents from school and other school related activities, and increased potential for dropping out of school).

Medical effects: Drug abuse not only weakens the immune system, but is also linked to risky behaviours like needle sharing (where the use of psychoactive substances, particularly those that are injected are involved) and unsafe sex, which combination greatly increases the likelihood of acquiring HIV-AIDS, hepatitis and many other infectious diseases. Mental health problems, such as depression, developmental lags, apathy, withdrawal, and other psychosocial dysfunctions, conduct problems, personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, and actual suicide, are frequently linked to substance abuse among young people”.

Airing her own view on the issue of abuse of drugs among schoolchildren and youths, Mrs Nwigbo Cecilia, a secondary school teacher, said, “transition from childhood to adolescence is a delicate period and in many cases, initiation into the train of drug abusers may occur. The use of illicit drugs is not a new trend, rather it is growing at an alarming rate with more “leaders of tomorrow” embracing the trend for varying reasons. Many factors have been identified to be responsible for drug abuse among young people. These include:

Experimental curiosity: The urge to experiment the unknown facts about drugs drives most adolescents into illcit drug usage. The first experience with drugs produces a state of arousal, such as happiness and pleasure which in turn motivates them to continue.

Peer group influence: Peer pressure is a phase in teenage and youth life. As they try to depend less on parents, they show more dependency on their friends, In Nigeria, as other parts of the world, one may not enjoy the company of others

unless he conforms to their norms.

Lack of parental supervision is another major factor, Many parents have no time to supervise their children. Some parents have little or no interaction with family members, while others put pressure on their children to pass exams or perform better in their studies. These phenomena initialize and increase drug abuse. Personality problems due to socio-economic conditions: Adolescents with personality problems arising from social conditions have been found to abuse drugs. The social and economic status of most Nigerians is below average. Poverty is widespread, broken homes and unemployment is on the increase.  Frustration arising from these problems can lead to illicit use of drugs.

Advertisement: This can also be a factor as youths are sensitive to advertisement and they copy quickly. The glamour in advertising alcohol, cigarette and other hard drugs make the youths want to be the way the advert depicts.

Emotional and psychological stress: Anxiety, frustration, and economic depression can also be a factor. People always take drugs or drink alcohol in order to forget their problems and anxieties”.

“Most people do not understand the effects drug abuse, especially on the youths. It is very necessary that measures should be taken to prevent or at least control illicit drug usage. The prevention of drug abuse should start from the family. Parents should care for their children, meet their physical needs, etc and also supervise or monitor them very well. They should monitor their movement to make sure that they keep good company. They should not over-pamper their children. Parents should not only educate their children on the dangers of drug abuse but they should establish and enforce family rules.  The school also has some big roles to play in the control and prevention of illicit drug usage among students, through organizing seminars and workshops, teaching them the dangers associated with illicit drug usage. The community on the other hand, also has a role to play in the prevention of drug abuse, through using adequate security personnel to monitor the rate at which these drugs are sold out to youths and under aged children.

Above all, the government has a more important role to play here, through banning the production, importation and sales of these illicit drugs, and most importantly; adequate punishment should be meted out to defaulters”.

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