By Winnie Kodilonye

Members of the Nigeria public have been advised not to discriminate or stigmatize those who are hooked on drugs, but find ways to help and support them as doing otherwise would create multiple negative impacts.

The Founder cum National Co-ordinator of the Drug Salvation Foundation; a non-governmental organization (NGO), Mr. Wilson Ighodalo gave the advice while speaking exclusively with WATCHOUT recently in Lagos. According to him, “discrimination and stigmatization against drug users cause more harm than one can imagine. It prevents drug users from seeking treatment/health services and makes re-integration almost impossible.”

He went further to say that “stigma can result in people delaying their decision to enter treatment and can hinder access to regular or specific healthcare stressing that it can trigger off dangerous behaviours and further compound social disadvantages associated with substance abuse.”

Describing drug abuse in Nigeria as a major cause for concern, Ighodalo pointed out that children as young as eleven years old are abusing drugs. He stated that “more emerging issues of substance abuse is the recent impact of abuse of OTC (Over The Counter) drugs.” This development, he said “has continued to rise over the years.”

According to him, “the recent survey found high rates of non-medical use of the prescription pain relievers like Tramadol and Codeine. It is believed that some factors have led to the increase in abuse, one of which is the availability of prescription drugs increasing from many sources including the family medicine cabinet, the internet and street vendors.”

The Drug Salvation Foundation chieftain also noted that the lockdown of 2020 precipitated by Covid-19 made it difficult for some children who are into drugs to hide as they no longer had access to drugs during the period and the withdrawal syndrome became more evident and some parents were just beginning to realize that their kids are using drugs. “That made a lot of them panic and some parents sought our intervention. We helped them to allay the fears.’’ He remarked.

Mr. Wilson Ighodalo who also launched the NDLEA Celebrity Drug Free Club in 2014 with his team had just marked the seventh anniversary of the Club which he said was founded by a group of “credible men and women who are indigenous celebrities of proven track records, known to have risen to the top of their career by dint of hard work and dedication. They serve as role models, mentors and champions worthy of emulation.”

He emphasized that “given the influence celebrities have on young people, we have no doubt that their involvement in the fight against the menace of drugs in Nigeria will yield positive results as days and years continue to count. According to him, some of the primary objectives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Celebrity Drug Free Club include increasing understanding and enlightenment on the dangers posed by drug abuse with their platforms (physical and social media).

The Club members also “encourage young people to resist drug use, identify those who use and encourage them to seek help, just as they support/promote youth oriented activities in promoting healthy lifestyle in the society.

The Drug Salvation Foundation in the last few years; has also hugely been involved in the training of Nigeria Police personnel on how best to handle drug abusers. In his words, “The Nigeria Police Force training came into existence to change the

Written by: Frank Oshanugor

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