CRISA Advocates Help for Drug Users, Says they should not be Punished

Health and Wellbeing Latest

…Trains Law Enforcement Agents on Drug Prevention, Treatment and Care

The Centre for Research Institute and Information on Substance Abuse (CRISA) has called for help for drug users, saying they should not be punished but helped to regain normalcy.

The Institute stated this at the training on sensitization on drugs and drug prevention, treatment and care (DPTC) for Law Enforcement Agencies held on Wednesday, March 4 and Thursday, March 5, 2020, in Uyo.

A cross section of the trainees

Speaking on the drug situation in Nigeria, one of the keynoters, Mr. Nsidibe Essien revealed that a whooping 14.3 million people in Nigeria are using drugs including amphetamines, inhalers, ecstasy, alcohol, cocaine, heroine and tobacco, out of which 10.6 million are specialists in cannabis.

Also Read: Uyo/Ikot Ekpene Road at 99% Stage – Contractor

He also noted that 1 out of every 4 drug user is a female, 1 in every 5 drug user is dependent on it, while people were found to be involved in drug use are as young as age 9.

The Project Manager for CRISA traced the causes of drug use to family neglect and abuse, poor attachment to school and community, growing up in marginalized/depressed societies as well as aggressive, impulsive and mentally disordered personality traits of a child.

One of the interactive sessions

He pointed out that these factors which often results in drug use and addiction results in doubled family neglect, fear and isolation of the drug user, which makes the user alienated and scorned by others.

Agreeing that most criminals use drugs to boost their fierceness before embarking on operations, Nsidibe Essien condemned in strong terms the arrest and incarceration of drug users, stressing that not all people using drugs are criminals or addicted to it.

Some of the trainees paying rapt attention to lectures

He argued further that the person with one or two wraps of cannabis is not the problem but the person selling it. “Drug abuse has come to stay and young children are more into it that day. Those who are using drugs should be treated, rather than sent to jail”, he maintained.

The keynoter explained that the treatment of drug users would reduce the demand for drugs and by extension, the supply of it.

Essien posited that the awareness carried out by CRISA was not just to provide information but to address the risk factors which contributes to drug use, increase knowledge and awareness of the issues and reduce the stigma associated with drug use and its users.

The keynoter lamented that prohibitive cost, fear and social stigma, unavailability of treatment and lack of information on where to find local treatment were factors militating against the success of drug treatment in Nigeria.

While calling on parents to be watchful of their children’s associations, he called on the government and public-spirited individuals to support CRISA’s efforts in combating the prevalence of drug use in the state, stating further that drug use was fast becoming a scourge in the society.

Speaking on Drug Supply Reduction, Mrs Idongesit Ekong harped that the biggest challenge of reducing the supply of drugs in Nigeria is the fact that drug trafficking routes are always changing. “You block this route today, another route is opened tomorrow”, she explained.

She however gave the reasons for the seeming unfruitful war against drug supply reduction to include the profitability in drug.

“Growing legal drugs often cannot compete with profits from harvesting crops for illicit drugs”, she maintained, adding that “production and sale of illicit drugs raises money for military purposes and other illegal activities”.

These, she said were however, challenges which would be surmounted with time.

Speaking on harm reduction as an approach to reducing drug related diseases, a counsellor with CRISA, Gloria Austin explained that one of the measures employed by the Institute in managing drug cases was the issuance of syringes.

“If we tell people to stop using drugs, not everyone will be able to do so. So, we protect them by getting clean needles and syringes across to them so that they do not share one needle and skin piercing instruments. This is to reduce infections like HIV, Hepatitis B and C and other diseases. They are properly counselled before given these instruments”, she said.

She explained that harm reduction measures are services provided to reduce the harm that comes to drug users. “They make the drug user healthy, alive and reproductive”, she said, adding that their centre at 10, Okon Essien Close, off Nepa Line in Uyo, is one of the places drug users can visit to he helped.  

“There are trained professionals who provide services to help reduce, if not totally stop the intake of substances by drug users, to help them become more productive in the society”.

In his reaction to the training, one of the trainees and Officer in Charge of Anti-Narcotics Squad, Akwa Ibom State Police command, SP Mark Mba, commended the CRISA for the series of lessons encompassed in the 2-day training.

He expressed that the series was much relevant to his area of operation, given the prevalence of drug use in the state and agreed that not all drug users are criminals.

He maintained that one of the most important part of the training was the room for synergy it created for related enforcement agencies to agree and come to terms with how to handle drug-related offences.

Another trainee from the Nigerian Correctional Service, Essien Ita described the training as being relevant to the NCS, adding that the knowledge gained would help them attend to drug users in their custody appropriately.

On his part, Staff Sergeant Obot Utin of the Nigerian Army Education Corps expressed optimism that he would be able to impart the knowledge gotten from the training to his colleagues in order to change the narrative of dealing with drug users they encounter daily. He also agreed that corrective measures such as counselling should be applied on drug users, instead of arrest and detention.

The training which featured class activities, interactive sessions and issuance of certificates of participation to attendees is supported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, with funding from the European Union.

It had in attendance representatives from Nigerian Army Intelligence Corps, Department of State Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Nigerian Army Public Relations, Nigerian Correctional Services, Federal Road Safety Commission, Nigerian Army Education Corps, Police Anti-Narcotics Squad, Media Practitioners, among others.