CADAM To Raise Awareness For 2021 World Drug Day
The United Nation General Assembly in December 1987, by resolution 42/112 , decided to observe June 26 every year as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking ( World Drug Day) being an expression of its determination to strengthen action and cooperation towards achieving the goal of a drug free World. This has been celebrated yearly ever since by individuals, communities, and various organizations all over the world with the primary aim of raising awareness on the major problems illicit drugs represent to society.
The World is set to celebrate yet another World Drug Day, come Saturday June 26, 202I. Nations around the World are expected to commemorate the day by raising awareness on the increasing menace and dangers Drug abuse and illicit Drug trafficking poses to the overall world peace and public health.
The theme for 2021 World Drug Day, “Share Facts on Drugs, Save Lives” aptly resonates with the times we are in. It aims at combating misinformation and promotes sharing the facts on drugs, from health risks and solutions to tackle the world drug problem, to evidence-based prevention, treatment, and care. This includes sharing research findings, evidence-based data, life-saving facts and tapping into a shared spirit of international solidarity.
In the last 18 months, many Countries were faced with the Covid-19 pandemic, with leading economies being the most hit. This has resulted in the shift of attention towards providing a cure for the dreaded disease while attention on the Drug problem was left hanging.
The COVID- 19 pandemic and the ensuing high fatalities which crippled the economies of many developing nations including Nigeria have taken our minds off the cry for help of people under the bondage of Drug Abuse and Addiction. More than ever before, they are at greater health risk because most do not have adequate shelter and are unable to adhere to prescribed preventive measures due to their poor living conditions.
If care is not taken of this unveiling scenario, the economic downturn resulting from Covid-19 pandemic may potentially disrupt drug markets. The resultant rising unemployment and lack of opportunities will make poor and disadvantaged people to engage in harmful patterns of drug use, suffer drug use disorders and turn to illicit activities linked to drugs. (credit -World Drug Report 2020)
The United Nation Secretary General António Guterres further wrote in his preface of the World Drug Report 2020
“This is a time for science and solidarity, of trust in science and of working together to respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The same holds true for our responses to the world drug problem. To be effective, balanced solutions to drug demand and supply must be rooted in evidence and shared responsibility. This is more important than ever, as illicit drug challenges become increasingly complex, and the COVID-19 crisis and economic downturn threaten to worsen their impacts, on the poor, marginalized and vulnerable most of all”
This year’s theme therefore encourages everyone to do their part, by committing to sharing only reliable and real science-backed data on drugs which can help save lives.
Sharing the Facts- Drug Use Prevalence and Health Consequences
A lot of facts are currently available that showcase the severity of the drug problem. According to the latest World Drug Report, 2020 published by United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), around 269 million people, or 5.3 per cent of the world population used drugs in 2018, which is 30 per cent more than in 2009, while over 35 million people suffer from drug use disorders.
Also an estimated 14 .4 percent of the population in Nigeria or 14.3 million People between 15 and 64 years of age had used drugs, in 2017 representing a prevalence rate of almost 3 times of the world average . 1 in 5 of these, suffers from drug use disorder.
Another fact worth sharing is that globally, Cannabis is the most used substance and opioids the most harmful. Estimated 192 million people worldwide used cannabis in 2018, making it the most used drug globally. In comparison, 58 million people used opioids in 2018 and they accounted for 66 per cent of the estimated 167,000 deaths related to drug use disorders.
It follows a similar trend in Nigeria where UNODC report of 2019 states that “Cannabis is the most commonly used drug. An estimated 10.8 per cent per cent of the population or 10.6 million people had used Cannabis in the past year. The average age of initiation of cannabis use among the general population was 19 years”. This is followed by pharmaceutical Opioids, 4.6 million people..
Some other facts from the Drug Use Survey in Nigeria Report, 2019 are:
n One in seven persons aged 15-64 years had used a drug as compared to the global average of 1in 20
n Among every 4 drug users in Nigeria 1 is a woman.
n The highest levels of any past-year drug use was among those aged 25-39 years
n 1 in 5 persons who had used drugs in the past year is suffering from drug user disorders. About 376,000 people were estimated to be high risk drug users, majority of who were regular users of opioids.
n 1 in 5 high-risk drug users injects drugs, i.e., nearly 80,000 people (nearly 0.1 per cent of the adult population) are estimated to be people who inject drugs.
n Geographically, the highest past-year prevalence of drug use was found in the southern geopolitical zones (past year prevalence ranging between 13.8 per cent and 22.4 per cent) compared to the northern geopolitical zones (past year prevalence ranging between 10 per cent and 13.6 per cent).
n Nearly 40 per cent of high-risk drug users indicated a need for treatment of drug use disorders. Most of the high-risk drug users considered it was difficult to access drug treatment. The cost of treatment and stigma attached to drug use and seeking treatment were cited as the primary barriers in accessing or availing drug treatment services.
The use of stimulants and inhalants is on the rise with the most commonly used stimulants being cocaine and methamphetamine. According to the World Drug Report 2020, some 19 million people used cocaine in 2018, while roughly 27 million people used amphetamines that same year
People who use drug usually start with experimentation and then transit to social use which may with time lead to dependency and addiction. Drug use disorder has been strongly associated with mental illness and people with drug use disorders suffer serious health consequences of drug use which includes non-fatal overdoses, infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, and fatal overdose leading to premature death.
Containing the Drug Scourge and Saving Lives
The growth in global drug supply and demand poses a great challenge to law enforcement, compounds health risks and complicates efforts to prevent and treat drug use disorders. More people are using drugs, and there are more drugs, and more types of drugs, than ever before. Efforts made so far by the national Drug Law enforcement and Drug Regulatory agencies, like National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) respectively may just not be adequate at this time in reducing drug demand and usage particularly amongst the population.
Governments all over need to step up their game by living up to their responsibility of providing healthcare support for people with drug use disorder. Evidence based Prevention programs should be developed and implemented at all levels of Government so as to reach the otherwise unreached populations in the rural area. Enforcement Agencies should be very well equipped and trained on how to mitigate the rise in international drug trade. All approaches should be geared towards promoting better public health outcomes.