The endemic abuse of drugs and substances by young girls and women, single as well as married, portends a great danger for the future of Nigeria. According to the 2015 Annual Report of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the North West zone of the country topped the table of arrests for drug-related offences for that year, clearly indicating that the epicentre of this menace has shifted to the northern part of the country.
Women largely abuse cough syrup because of its codeine content; turning them into social miscreants and rebellious housewives. It is increasingly becoming common to see girls and women at social spots in the night where they sit to drink codeine. They also sniff sewage lines, pit latrines and solution (a chemical-based substance used in mending tires by vulcanisers). Experts say drug addiction among women exposes them to stealing, prostitution and sexually-transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Some women and girls are also known to sell personal belongings including jewelry to raise money for the substances.
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Media reports showed how a young girl from the north told reporters that she could take up to eight bottles of codeine in a day, which would still not get her ‘high’ enough. She then learnt how to boost the syrup with prescription tablets like Tramadol, Rohypnol and D5. She said each time she took the combination, she experienced uncommon feeling. “I feel like I own the world. I feel like there is nobody above me,” she added. While some said they became addicted to codeine when their husbands took other wives, others mentioned divorce. The suppression of worries and sexual prowess are some of the benefits the women say they derive from taking codeine. To disguise, some of them would be seen frolicking with bottles of soft drinks that are mixed with other substances.
Women must not be left to continue on this self-destructive path. A society that allows women to be exposed to this damaging nuisance is doomed. Women are the foundation of every prosperous society. Being a child’s first teacher in life, a woman when properly guided guarantees her country’s future and remains the custodian and preserver of societal values and ideals. This is why it is said that to educate a woman is to educate a nation.
Restricting consumers’ access to drugs is crucial to any rescue mission that would be undertaken to save women from the hazards of drug abuse. Regulatory agencies, particularly the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) do not appear to be doing enough in nipping this crisis in the bud. Exhibits seized from suspects are reportedly syndicated back to peddlers on the streets. We call on relevant authorities to investigate this claim and ensure that culprits are dealt with according to the law. Given the serious generational danger to which codeine exposes our women, the National Assembly is also urged to consider enacting legislation that will help reign in the circulation of drugs across the country.
It is worthy of note that many parents have abdicated their natural responsibilities. It’s important they prioritise children’s moral training. Since “an idle mind”, they say, “is a devil’s workshop”, the role of sports in addressing drug abuse among youths including women cannot be overlooked. We encourage state governments to support schools in the provision of equipment for games and athletics. Local government councils are similarly urged to provide sporting facilities in major townships. The more opportunities young people have to explore and participate in productive activities, the less time they would have to indulge in wayward tendencies like drug abuse.
Inter-states, inter-local governments and inter-schools female sports competitions organised quarterly, bi-annually, or annually could help to reverse the trend of drug abuse among women. Banks, telecom companies and philanthropic organisations are encouraged to support such competitions. We appeal to local government authorities to enact laws that would frustrate the sale, circulation and consumption of all substances abused by women. Community, traditional and religious leaders should be part of efforts designed to fight this menace at the grassroots. In particular, we call on the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), the Christian Association of Nigeria in northern states (Northern CAN), the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and similar bodies to work together with relevant authorities to effectively address this menace.
As some of the women addicts claim they abuse drugs and substances to escape worries occasioned directly or indirectly by marital problems or joblessness, the government is advised to develop a strategic national plan targeted at tackling high unemployment among women and girls in the northern region. The Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the like should strengthen their respective skills acquisition programmes with a focus to empower women across the country. This could reduce the high divorce rate and broken homes; two factors with a strong correlation with drug abuse and addiction among women. All hands must be on deck to rescue our women from this dangerous trend.