Drug abuse is a rapidly growing public health problem in Nigeria and other parts of the world. Every year an estimated 210 million people use illicit drugs, with almost 200,000 of them dying annually. Globally, it has been established that the burden of the drug problem weighs greatly on adolescents and youths because they are the most affected. It is also unfortunate that in Nigeria, children in primary schools and the junior secondary are beginning to experiment with various kinds of illicit drugs and substances.
Globally, it has been established that the burden of the drug problem weighs greatly on adolescents and youths because they are the most affected.
In Nigeria, our experiences of working with young people has exposed us to the disturbing fact that children as young as 7years are becoming addicted to one form of substance or the other. In 2018, it was reported that close to half of the young population in Nigeria are experimenting with drugs, prompting the United Nations to call on the Nigerian government to pay attention to youth drug abuse. The problem of drugs is not only a health threat, but also a threat to the global stability and socio-economic development across the world. It impedes the development of any society as it is a threat to life, health, dignity and prosperity of all individuals. Drugs threaten the mental development, physical development and the future of young people.
Yet despite the challenges posed by drugs, the prevalence can be curtailed and the impact mitigated. By taking a multidimensional approach in drug use prevention, treatment and care that involves the family and the society, we can make a difference in curbing the menace of drugs in Nigeria. As part of evidence based strategies to curb the menace of drugs amongst adolescents, the United Nations have stressed the importance of the involvement of families, educational institutions and communities in creating a positive environment for the young people in particular, and supporting individuals and families affected. According to Yury Fedotov; the UNODC Executive Director, “Drug use is a global problem. Prevention starts with a community that cares about the vulnerable and it involves families, teachers, youth leaders and mentors among others. Together we can work towards effective problem-solving strategies, teaching communities how to assess their local substance abuse-related problems and develop a comprehensive plan to address them”.
In line with this, Reconnect HDI has developed the SAVE OUR LOVED ONES (SOLO) campaign to start families on the path to a healthier future for the younger generation. SOLO campaign recognizes that majority of the individuals and families affected do not receive the appropriate treatments and interventions required as a result of various reasons that range from fear of stigma/discrimination, inability to access treatment services due to lack of finance, limited adequate treatment services, lack of information and/or ignorance. These proven facts underpin basis of this campaign.
The SOLO campaign is founded on three key concepts that informs the basis of key messages that are conveyed to the various target audiences, to enable us achieve set objectives;
1. PREVENT: Information dissemination is the most widely used approach to combat drug use. Prevention is key to enhance protective factors and reverse/reduce risk factors, particularly in populations at higher risk of substance abuse.
Preventive measures focuses on the development of knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed for creating an environment that supports healthy behavior, to enable beneficiaries act in a healthy manner and in some cases, change their behavior.
The campaign would partner with various stakeholders, utilizing a variety of avenues, to provide adequate drug information to the public, as well as to promote campaign goals and objectives.
2. RECOGNISE: Understanding how to utilize early intervention for substance abuse can be the difference between long-term recovery and years of relapse. Young people are subject to acute and specific risks that older addicts don’t have to contend with. This, combined with the fact that young people may be more susceptible to addiction, makes it all the more important that parents intervene at the first sign that their child is abusing drugs. For people who are already using drugs or abusing substance, an early intervention program is key before the issue escalates to a more serious level.
We will be promoting the need for families to know the drug status of their children and loved ones early through the introduction of easy-to-use home drug testing kit. Drug testing acts as a deterrent, and families can pick the habit early before it leads to dependence.
3. RESPOND: In response to early detection, the campaign provides information about treatment and support services. Treatment options would depend on the level of drug abuse or dependence. It may include counseling, detoxification and/or rehabilitation.
The SOLO campaign aims to build a society-wide movement that will inspire and support families to start building and persisting with preventive and intervention measures to aid that first step and on-going steps for the health of their children and loved ones, encouraging them to persist no matter how often life and the environment intervenes to derail their efforts.
The SOLO campaign has a huge potential to get into homes in every community and help parents and loved ones to make those changes that people want to make, but which everyday struggles and societal norms make harder to do.
SOLO campaign involves the critical role of families, communities and relevant stakeholders to build on protective factors to provide a safe and healthy childhood and adolescent years, and to provide supportive and adequate measures that ensure adequate treatment and a better future.
The goal of the campaign is to heighten the awareness of families to know that when it comes to drugs, their children and adolescents are at risk.
(a.) To heighten the awareness of drugs among youth through their families and the community.
(b.) To promote knowledge of drug testing services.
(c.) To increase access to rehabilitation and treatment services.
The primary target audience for the SOLO campaign include parents, parent organizations, teachers and caregivers, school owners, corporate organizations, key stakeholders, funders and policy makers.
The secondary audience for the SOLO campaign are young people between the ages of 9 – 24 years of age.