Nigeria is facing a serious challenge of drug use and addiction, with a prevalence rate of 14.4% according to recent studies. This is significantly higher than the global average of 5.6%. The most commonly used drugs in Nigeria are cannabis, opioids, cocaine, amphetamines and tranquilizers.
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) confirmed in its 2018 “Drug Use and Health Survey” that around 29.4 million Nigerians aged between 15 and 64 abuse psychoactive substances and other dangerous drugs.
Experts have called for the federal government to create more awareness on the damaging effects of drug abuse to human health. Coupled with further awareness is the need for well-equipped rehabilitation facilities and support for not for profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Current facilities involve centres with very little or no regulation by the government. These facilities often use religious or traditional methods to treat drug users, such as prayer, fasting, exorcism and herbal concoctions. Some of them also subject their clients to harsh and inhumane conditions, such as chaining, beating, starvation and isolation.
There is an urgent need for Nigeria to develop a comprehensive and evidence-based response to the drug problem, which includes prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and harm reduction services.
The government should also regulate and monitor the activities of the existing rehab centers and ensure that they adhere to ethical and professional standards.
Moreover, the government should invest in building more public psychiatric hospitals and community-based facilities that can provide quality and affordable care for drug users.