An illegal psychoactive drug, Cannabis which is popularly known as marijuana was the most widely used substance in Nigeria in 2018, followed by pharmaceutical opioids, mainly tramadol and codeine-containing cough syrups.
In Nigeria, 14.3 million people (14 percent of the country’s population) between the ages of 15 and 64 made use of the various forms of hard drugs, excluding alcohol and tobacco-related products.
Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that the extent of drug use in the country in 2018 is comparatively high when compared with the 2016 global annual prevalence of 5.6 percent among the adult population.
“One in five high-risk drug users is injecting drugs. The most common drugs injected in the past year were pharmaceutical opioids, followed by cocaine and heroin,” the report stated.
Arguably, cannabis is a strong drug that can cause psychosis. However, because it is illegal, more people can end up with psychosis because prohibition makes illegal drugs stronger; after all, scarcity breeds want. People want cannabis precisely because it is not readily available to them, thereby increasing their use and invariably, the chances of psychosis.
Making marijuana or codeine illegal has not deterred people from using it, the numbers from the NBS proves, however, it can be made safer and more adaptable for multiple uses.
Cannabis was the most commonly used drug followed by opioids, mainly the non-medical use of prescription opioids and cough syrup. Despite the ban on codeine-containing cough syrup in the country last year and the criminalisation of these drugs, the drug use in Nigeria is still high.
Last year, the Project Officer of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Nigeria, Harsheth Kaur Virk had said, “Nigeria as a sovereign Nation has its stringent laws against it but international conventions of the UN have approved it for medical purposes based on outcome of researches conducted to that effect by globally recognized institutes.”
Criminalising addictive drugs or restricting the use has not helped in reducing the drug use in the country. Rather, addicts should be rehabilitated.
“The Drugs and Crime office of the UN sees addictive drugs users as people who are sick, in need of treatment, care and rehabilitation,” Virk noted.
Using Portugal’s 2001 model, where it decriminalised the possession and use of all illegal drugs, replacing it with a major health campaign. Should frequent and addictive drug use be seen as a disease rather than a crime, Nigeria would see a drop in its drug use. In addition, the country can make huge profits like Canada which recorded an additional $8 billion after the legalization of cannabis.