Some drug abusers in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, says depression, financial instability and peer pressure were some of the reasons for their addiction to some substances.
Speaking, respondents who cut across various age groups argued that the pressure to make ends meet caused their drug abuse.
The younger respondents stated that they took to the habit due to increased peer pressure, adding that it increased their level of acceptance by helping them blend into desired societal groups.
They listed Marijuana, Cocaine, Refnol and Codeine as constantly abused drugs, with Alcohol, Gins, soft drinks and Spirits acting as mixers for the drugs.
A recent documentary on prevalent Codeine abuse by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) led to a Federal Government ban on cough syrups that contain Codeine.
However, respondents said that banning Codeine would have minor effect on drug abuse prevalence; alleging that it would increase the ‘black market’ value of the drug substance.
Mr Ifeanyi Akachukwu, a 28 year old post graduate student said his drug abuse journey started during his early undergraduate years following depression after he lost his father.
“You know, it is difficult to drop a habit that gives you so much peace. When my father died during my undergraduate years, I picked up the habit of smoking.
“I started smoking cigarettes but as the pain and pressure I felt increased, I needed something stronger to numb the hurtful feelings, and Marijuana became an instant solution,” he said.
Akachukwu noted that there was so much stereo-type around drug and substance addicts as they were usually seen as ‘never-do-wells’.
He said, “I agree that the habit is bad and it has medical side effects but everybody has one bad habit or the other, moreover, depression is very real.
“People think highly of me because of my educational background but the moment they find out I use Marijuana, they start stereo-typing me,” Akachukwu added. Similarly, Mr Callistus Imiojo, a 46 year old businessman said that he slipped into `a continuous overwhelming’ sadness when he lost his business four years ago.
“I started smoking Marijuana four year ago when I lost my business and could not fend for my family; I also tried codeine for a while.
“We could not feed and I felt less than a man, all my esteem stripped away by the pressure and shame. “I needed an escape and drugs helped. My business is back now but I cannot stop, although my abuse is beginning to reduce,” Imiojo said.
He stated that he was hiding his drug abuse from his three sons because he does not want them to take to the habit, as he was aware of the health implications.
“I know my drug habit is really bad and I honestly wish I can stop but it saved me, although people will not believe it.
“The drugs kept my spirit up else, I would have committed suicide,” Imiojo added. However, Miss Angela Obuh, a 19 year old undergraduate admitted that drug abuse has become a pre-requisite for acceptance in various peer groups.
“I don’t find anything wrong in taking Refnol or Codeine because all my friends do it and you don’t want to be the odd one out,” she said. Reflecting on the history of her substance abuse, Obuh said that it started about a year ago when she accompanied her friends to a party.
“I didn’t want to take anything because all the stories that older people had told me about drugs and they (her friends) laughed at me. I tried it and the drugs really make you feel good.
“I don’t think I can hang out with people who don’t want to get ‘high’, they are boring. I am young and this is the time to do all these things,” Obuh added.
However, she confessed that her parents and relatives are not aware of her drug abuse habit as she dreads judgements from older people.
A psychologist, Mr Adura Daramola confirmed that stress and trauma could lead to and heighten drug abuse, especially since people want to escape reality during these times.
“Because most drugs act on the ‘reward and pleasure’ part of the brain and create a sense of high or euphoria, it is easy for stressed and depressed people to fall into routine of using them.
“Before long, they become addicted and need these drugs such as Cocaine or Refnol to stay happy and elevated. They however, cause long term damage to their brains,” Daramola said.
He added that during low moments, it is best to seek therapy or be around a loving environment instead of self-medicating or using anti-depressants. Daramola said, “Soon, one can become addicted and ending that addiction takes a long journey.”