According to the National Centre For Drug Abuse Statistics 2022 report, the exponential increase in the percentage of people – youths in particular – who abuse hard drugs is quite alarming. About twenty-seven years back, in 1995, youths between the age of fifteen (15) to twenty(20) years, about two thousand to be precise were killed in car crashes due to the influence of hard drugs and alcohol. This was stated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These figures seem to be increasing every day in our modern world today and the statistics are becoming quite worrisome. Unfortunately, these records will not decline if proper orientation about drugs isn’t put in place! Now, what are drugs? What kinds of drugs are abused? What are the negative impacts on individuals and society at large? These questions have to be adequately answered.
Drugs are taken into the body system to affect or alter the chemical operations of the body. The taking in of drugs could be to alleviate or eradicate pain completely or to treat an illness too. In recent times, drugs have perhaps been classified into two categories namely; ‘hard drugs’ and ‘soft drugs’. But, it is expedient to note that the words ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ cannot accurately tell us much about drugs. This is because some drugs when taken, in rational quantities, have positive effects on its user. But when taken excessively or without prescription, it becomes life-threatening—a poison to avoid. Some of the drugs commonly abused—i.e. taken without a medical personnel’s prescription or in excess—are cocaine, tobacco, nicotine, heroin, cannabis, opioids, hallucinogens, and many more to mention but a few. These drugs are noxious chemicals that tap into the brain system and are likely to cause damage or send abnormal messages. Now, addiction to these hard drugs is a disease. Drug abuse is harmful to our physical health, emotional and mental state as well as the people around us. In the US, it was discovered that over ten million young people (ages 12 to 29) need substance abuse treatment.
There are numerous reasons why youths engage in substance abuse. Some factors influence añd increase the probability of teens having SUD which is Substance Use Disorder. The factors associated include; a family history of substance use. People who emanate from families whose relatives are involved with drugs and alcohol have a high tendency to delve into it as they grow. For example, in cartels and families where the transportation and sales of drugs are carried out, teens in such polluted environments have a high probability of getting addicted to drugs. Another core factor that increases the statistical analysis of youths engaging in drug abuse is another form of abuse—sexual abuse. Children who were molested and sexually abused in any form tend to turn to drugs to hide their emotional pain and hurts. Oftentimes, teens who are not often properly monitored and disciplined by their parents occasionally go astray to ‘test’ what their peers are engaging in. It is not unusual as well for someone who’s having difficulties in their academics to resort to hard drugs as consolation. A lot of factors coagulate together to pull the growing child down to engage in hard drugs.
Now, the effects of hard drugs on youths cannot be overemphasized. Hard drugs, when abused affect physical and emotional health, serve the relationships between relatives, and ultimately cause great damage to society at large. To start with, people who abuse drugs are liable for numerous health defects. Brain damage, blood pressure/heart changes, organ damage, fertility issues, hormonal imbalances, and in some severe cases of addiction, lead to death. Illegal and inordinate consumption of hard drugs has adverse long-term effects on the human body system through the infliction of heart disease, stroke, liver disease, pancreatitis, and other life-threatening sicknesses.
Not only that, people’s mental health deteriorates drastically when they often get involved with hard drugs. Depression sets in like a welcomed guest. The drug abuser is likely to isolate him/herself from social gatherings. Withdrawal from family members, friends, and colleagues is usually evident. Youths who engage in substance abuse are at higher risk of psychological dysfunction and personality disorders. All of these can be traced back to the irregular functioning of the body system.
In addition, financial instability is a direct consequence of getting addicted to hard drugs. Spending whatever is left of their savings, drug addicts have an inordinate desire to go the extra mile just to get their preferred choice of drugs. Addiction to drugs is a sure path to tread to financial bankruptcy. Time, energy, and resources are wasted just to alleviate the burning addiction within them to consume drugs.
As part of the paramount necessities of life too, teens are usually still in high school or just applying to college during their teenage years. And so, the consequences of hard drugs being abused reflect on their academics too. A low level of commitment to one’s studies, incessant absenteeism from school, retrograding grades, and a high level of truancy are all associated with teens who engage in drug abuse. In fact, according to Hawkins, Catalano and Miller cite research shows that there’s a connection between the high level of truancy and people who abuse drugs.
Families, peers, and society are not spared from the adverse effect of the abuse of drugs. In families where a member abuses drugs births crises and family dysfunction. It drains the family emotionally and financially and there’s also a high tendency for physical abuse. Society and government hàve to build as many rehabilitation centres as possible for the treatment of people under the yoke of Substance Use Disorder (SUD). The cost of medical equipment and facilities has to be included in the state’s budget unfailingly to reduce the mortality rate and decrease the level of psychiatric patients.
The problem has been outlined. Its effects have been explained. How then can drug abuse amongst youths be curbed or to an extent, be reduced to its minimum level?
Firstly, sensitization programs about the negative effects of hard drugs should be organized at all levels of education—primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Empowerment programs, seminars, cohort programs, and even advertisements should all be utilized to steer teens off the course of hard drugs. The physical problems that come with it should be duly emphasized and explained.
Also, parents should endeavour to monitor their children from infanthood and instruct them by example and protectively guard them by resisting peer influence as much as they can. Instructions alone might not be enough, safeguarding might be inefficient, and adequately educating and showing them by example is expedient. Youths themselves must be smart enough and strong-willed to withstand peer pressure.
It is expedient to know that in the worst scenario, where chronic addiction might have taken place, that recovery from addiction to hard drugs is possible. A very good example is the story of the famous English Comedian, Russel Brand, who struggled with addiction to heroin at the tender age of nineteen(19). His recovery process wasn’t instantaneous. He sure battled with for a while. After he became successful, he wrote a book titled Recovery:- Freedom From Our Addictions where he shared basic steps towards overcoming addiction. Perhaps that testimonial seems too distant. The Queen of Daytime Television who is seen every now and then on TV screens, in magazines, and in several publications, in the person of Oprah Winfrey also suffered from the addiction to crack and cocaine and later conquered it.
With hands joined together and interests combined, parents, youths and the government can curb the detrimental effect of hard drugs on society.
The Editorial Team, God is Love Educational Foundation