The recent documentary conducted and presented by BBC World Service on the abuse of codeine and related substances in Nigeria has sparked off discussions in different quarters.  The Federal Government in its usual bravado moved quickly to ban codeine and shut down some pharmaceutical companies.

With this action of the government, codeine now becomes a black market product.  It now becomes a thriving business for smugglers.  The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) recently arrested some drug dealers in Ilorin on account of this.  Nigeria is not very good at controlling black market products; therefore, banning codeine has not solved the problem. Besides codeine, Nigerian youths and teenagers abuse other drugs like tramadol and even paracetamol.  We even hear of some set of young people sniffing evostic to get “high”.  There are others who are addicted to alcohol, marijuana and all sorts of substances smoked in motor parks, on the streets and on some campuses.

This article has four dimensions:

  • Situations/factors that lead to substance abuse among teenagers.
  • Signs that show when a teenager is abusing substances.
  • Effects of substance abuse on teenagers
  • Helping a teenager stop/deal with substance abuse

Below are some identified situations or factors that can lead to substance abuse among teenagers:

  1. Family Tradition: I’ve personally dealt with a situation whereby a teenager abused different kinds of substances because both parents were involved in abuse.  A child that grows up in a family where drinking and smoking are done with reckless abandon is likely to grow up abusing different substances. Parents must understand this.
  2. Peer Pressure: Many teens start using drugs to avoid being stigmatized by friends. When a teenager moves with friends who drink or smoke, he’s most likely to get involved.  It is not out of place if you really know who your child’s friends are, so you can adequately advise.
  3. Emotional Issues: Emotional issues such as anxiety, stress, low self-worth, fear etc can lead a teenager to substance abuse. A teenager who has suffered or is suffering any form of abuse is likely to develop any of the emotional problems mentioned above and as such begin to abuse substances.  Such a teenager might erroneously believe that smoking and drinking is a way of showing superiority or a way of enhancing acceptance.

Below are some of the signs that a teenager is abusing substances:

  1. Mood Changes: When a teenager becomes overtly excited or becomes a bit violent, watch out.  It might be an early sign of substance abuse.
  2. Avoiding Eye Contacts: When he/she begins to avoid eye contacts, it might not necessarily mean he/she is shy. Look closer at those eyes and see if they’re red and check too if the lids are heavy.  It is a sign that he/she has started drinking/smoking.
  3. Pieces of Strange Items in the Room: Always check their rooms.  If you find some empty cans of unknown substances, stumps or wraps with strange odor, do not overlook them.  They might be the lead.
  4. Withdrawal: When a teenager begins to stay alone in the room, away from family and relatives.  It might be a sign he is hiding something.
  5. Inordinate Demand for Money: Drugs are not gotten free of charge.  When you notice an unusual spate of expenditure, please find out what the money is being used for.

It is good to proscribe drugs to avoid abuse but it is better to bring up a child in a way that will make him/her stay away from drugs.  Knowledge is key.  Knowledge is power.  Let’s all teach them that prevention is better than cure