THE target demographic for drug prevention campaigns has traditionally been young adults. They are going through a variety of events and situations that make them vulnerable to using drugs, and they are also in the process of learning how to make healthy decisions and behaviors. At this point in their lives, drug usage is either a coping strategy or a social experiment. In terms of an experiment, this is primarily a result of peer pressure and the mounting need to blend in and seem “cool.” They might seek it out as a way to deal with the pressures of school, standardized tests like those conducted by JAMB and WAEC. However, the increased demand and use of drugs in adulthood is becoming glaring. According to a 2018 UNODC research, 1 in 7 Nigerians between the ages of 15 and 64 had taken illicit drugs at some point, with 14.3 million people in this age group identified as drug users. In addition, people between the ages of 25 and 39 comprise the majority of drug users. It may not be the case that drug prevention initiatives in schools are ineffective, but rather that adult settings and dialogues need to be included in the fight against drug demand.
Drug prevention cannot be given more importance in one age group than another because there is no distinct section that allows for this. Theories of health persuasion are frequently used to persuade young adults throughout their formative years to build the resilience and willpower to withstand particular cravings even in the face of difficulties that could otherwise lead them to explore drug escapism. Adults are not exempted from these issues; in fact, they are even more vulnerable since they no longer have access to the safety nets that help them overcome obstacles. Adults have obstacles at work and even social expectations regarding income, responsibilities, and ongoing performance and achievement pressure. Teenagers and young people are developing into responsible adults and leaving the communities that these admirable drug prevention initiatives are meant to reach. Sadly, experimenting is not beyond a certain age group due to pressure, temptation, and curiosity. It may appear that drug prevention initiatives can merely postpone drug usage in teens and young adults till they reach adulthood rather than completely stopping it. In fact, a lot of young people don’t start using heroin until they’re 22. Because they have the added disadvantage of having access to money to support the habit, adults also have a higher risk of being dependent on drugs.
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) launched the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) initiative in June 2021, led by its Chairman/Chief Executive Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd). This was done in line with the agency’s goals to fight the drug war in three areas: reduce supply, reduce demand, and recover proceeds from illicit drug trafficking. The NDLEA is winning the battle against drug supply thanks to its commendable arrests of up to 23, 907 drug traffickers including 29 drug barons between 2021 and 2022 and seizures of up to 5.5 million kg of illicit drugs. However, the general public is urged to support the agency’s initiatives to lower drug demand. The NDLEA also awards WADA ambassadorships to public figures, public officials, both state and non-state actors, leaders in organizations, including the entertainment industry, to indulge them in the fight against substance use in their respective communities, recognizing that the demography of drug use is not restricted to youth and young adults. Demand must be decreased greatly in order to lower supply, and engaging the public in the struggle is the only way to do this.
The pressure to use drugs for life can only be resisted by those who possess strong self-control and the capacity to exert willpower. Currently, this discipline necessitates sustained, intentional effort well into adulthood. To reduce the rising demand for drugs among adults, organisations are encouraged to incorporate drug use policies and drug prevention programs into their operational procedures, while schools are equally expected to make drug education part of their curriculum.
- Tarfa writes in from Kuje, Abuja.
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