ANALYSIS: Hard drugs are claiming lives of Nigerian students

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On May 10, A 300-level student of Petroleum and Gas Engineering at the Federal University, Otuoke (FUO) in Bayelsa State, reportedly died from drug overdose. Media reports noted that the 19-year-old deceased student, simply identified as Job Alawari Kei, allegedly took a drug known as Colorado (Colos). The deceased student was reported to have “cash out” on an internet deal and wanted to celebrate by getting “high”, “But the drug handed him by his friends killed him.”

This is one of many incidents caused by susbtance abuse. In 2022, a 23-year-old United Kingdom-based Nigerian law student, Damilola Olakanmi, has died after she reportedly consumed a candy mixed with cannabis. The undergraduate student of Hertfordshire University bought the sweets through a messaging app and they were delivered to her at home on March 29. The girl, who fell ill after taking the candy, was rushed to Queen’s Hospital, Romford, and died on April 2.

Substance abuse has been a public health concern with 14.4% (14.3 million) of people aged between 15 and 64 years abusing drugs, according to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime. This Meanace is leading to the deaths of Nigerian students, cutting their dreams and aspiraions. 

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Depressiion Leading To Drug Abuse

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Studies have shown that the prevalence of depression amongst post-secondary Nigerian students is high, and this is a contributing factor to the abuse of drugs amongst young people. Depression is a mental illness frequently co-occurring with substance use. The relationship between the two disorders is bi-directional, meaning that people who misuse substances are more likely to suffer from depression, and vice versa. People who are depressed may drink or use drugs to lift their mood or escape from feelings of guilt or despair.

Findings revealed that mood disorders, especially major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BD), often coincide with substance use disorders (SUDs). Prevalence of substance use disorders in people with BD range from 20% to 70% and from 10% to 30% in persons with MDD. Alcohol use disorder is the most common SUD in individuals with BD, occurring in about 42%, and cannabis use disorder is the next most common, at about 20%.

Depression is the most common illness that affects mental health in Nigeria, according to a report. Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders currently going undiagnosed in many developing countries, including Nigeria. For students, inadequate financial resources, harsh academic calendar, poor healthcare infrastructure for accurate diagnosis, emotional instability, ineffective counseling units in schools, are contributing factors to the prevalence of depression, leading to the abuse of drugs.

What Can Be Done?

Proper awareness is needed to curtail the prevelence of drug abuse amongst students. Campaigns against drug abuse should be regular and also banners and billboards kicking against should be placed at designated areas in schools and its environments. Also, counseling units in schools should be prioritized and funded in order to atend to concerns of students including issues affecting their mental healths.

Thrre is also a need to rguallry engage students through wporkshops, seminars,. Symposiums, on the adverse effect of consuming hard drugs. This will keep students informed about the dangers in hard drugs consumption.   

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