Drug abuse is a rapidly growing global problem. (Lakhanpal, Agnihotri, 2007; United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, 2007; Abudu, 2008). The impact of drug abuse among Nigerian adolescents has been a feature of a morally bankrupt, corrupt and wasted generation and loss of our societal values and ideals. Majority of the Nigerian adolescents ignorantly depend on one form of drug or the other for their various daily activities social, educational, political, moral etc. Such drugs include: Tobacco, Indian hemp, cocaine, morphine, Heroine, Alcohol, ephedrine, Madras, Caffeine, Glue, Barbiturates, and Amphetamines. The problem of drug abuse places a significant threat to the social, health, economic fabrics of the families, tearing apart our societies, spawning crime, spreading diseases such as aids, and killing our youths and our future and the entire nations. 

Lakhanpal, & Agnihotri, 2007 defines drug abuse as the arbitrary over dependence or miss-use of one particular drug with or without a prior medical diagnosis from qualified health practitioners. It was also defined by Oluremi, 2012 as the harmful use of mind altering drugs, illegal drugs, which also include harmful use of legal prescription drugs, Such as in self-medication. In one of the WHO and the World Heart Foundation’s data, it was established that in Nigeria, 22.1 percent of school youth between 12 to 17 years use tobacco, they experiment with drugs. At this age, they try so many new things. They use drugs for many reasons, including curiosity and desire to find out the effectiveness of a particular drug, to feel good, to reduce stress, or to feel grown up.  Some Nigerian adolescents are being offered cigarettes through promotions and musical concerts. Some teens will experiment and stop, or continue to use occasionally without significant problems. While others will develop addiction, moving on to more dangerous and hard drugs and causing considerable harm to themselves and the society at large. 

Drugs are everywhere in our cities in Nigeria, motor parks, Street corners, joints on campuses, uncompleted buildings, under flyovers. The Government of Nigeria seems to lose sight of its responsibilities. Therefore, drug use among youths and adolescents should be a matter of concern to the society, government, school heads, religious leaders, groups and other NGOs.

Factors responsible for drug addiction 

The abuse of drugs in Nigeria is caused by many factors including peer pressure, social media influence, poverty and unemployment. love for money by peddlers, disobedience to the laws of the country, proliferation of the market with individuals who sell medicines, lack of control of prescription in the healthcare facilities and lack of control of dispensing among dispensers. Other reasons for abuse of drugs include smuggling substances of abuse through our porous seaports and land borders, corruption and compromises at the point of entries, diversion of legitimate exports to illicit use, weakness in inspections and weak penalties for the sellers and traffickers. Some individuals depend on certain drugs for their survival due to a number of factors other depending on a particular type of drug or the other. According to Eze and Omeje, (1999) in Oluremi, (2012), individuals engage in drugs for the following reasons:

Socio-cultural:  This theory maintains that drug abuse is determined by socio-cultural values of the people. For example, certain cultures permit the consumption of alcohol and marijuana, while other cultures do not. Among the tribes in Nigeria for example, Edo, Ijaw, Igbo, Ibibio, Urhobo, Itesekiri and Yoruba, alcohol is used in cultural activities. In the northern part of Nigeria any form of drug is not allowed.

Personality: The major emphasis of this theory is that there are certain qualities of characteristics in the individuals that abuse drugs. Such personality characteristics are the ability to delay satisfaction, low tolerance for frustration, poor coping ability and low self-esteem, poor impulse control and high emotional dependence on other people. People with these personality characteristics find it difficult to abstain from drug abuse. 

Biological: The theory maintains that drug abuse is determined by the individual’s biological or genetic factors which make them vulnerable to drug addiction. Example, some families inherit drugs use from generation to generation which makes it easy for children in that generation to engage in illicit drug use. Moreover, decline of family value systems, parents not playing their roles properly, children and youth therefore not receiving proper guidance are factors contributing to illicit drug use,

Learning: The theory maintains that usage or dependence of drugs occurs as a result of learning. The learning could be by means of instrumental learning (Operant conditioning i.e. stimulus that causes a response) conditional learning (neutral stimulus comes to elicit a response), or social learning (through observation or direct instruction).

Risks Associated with drug abuse

It can be divided into: 

  1. Short Term Risk
  2. Long Term Risk

Short Term Risk includes:

  1. Changes in appetite
  2. Sleeplessness or insomnia
  3. Increased heart rate
  4. Slurred speech
  5. Changes in cognitive ability
  6. A temporary sense of euphoria
  7. Loss of coordination

Long Term Risk Include:

Depression: Mood disorder that can affect a person's daily life. It may be described as feelings of sadness, loss, or anger

Anxiety: Feeling of fear or apprehension about what's to come.

Panic disorders: Intense fear that may include sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, numbness, or a feeling that something terrible is going to happen

Increased aggression: Increased feelings of anger or readiness to attack or confront.

Paranoia: Psychotic disorder, leading to distrust in other people.

Hallucinations: A psychotic disorder, a perception of having seen, heard, touched, tasted or smelled something that wasn't actually there.

The long-term physical effects of drug use vary depending on the type of drug and the duration of use, it can also lead to an inability to cease using a drug which include:

Relationship problems

Poor work or academic performance

Difficulty maintaining personal hygiene

Noticeable changes in appearance, such as extreme weight loss

Increased impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors

Loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities

Affect a person’s memory, learning, and concentration.

Preventive Measures to Drug abuse

Prevention of substance abuse among adolescents requires awareness of characteristics that place youth at risk and targeting risk factors that are modifiable. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) lists several factors that can enhance or mitigate adolescent risk for initiating or continuing to abuse drugs. These factors include exposure to drugs, socio-economic status, quality of parenting, peer group influence and biological/inherent predisposition towards drug addiction. Being aware of these risk factors can assist families, health professionals, schools and other community workers with identifying at-risk youth and aid in reducing or eliminating risk factors through prevention and treatment programmes.

Prevention programmes

The 2010 NIDA Report4 emphasizes both the role of family and community prevention programmes as vital to deterring child and adolescent substance abuse.

  1. Family prevention programmes
  2. Community and school prevention programmes
  3. Role of healthcare providers in prevention

Family prevention programmes: emphasizes on the need to protect children through the family, including increasing family bonding and using appropriate discipline. Factors such as parents with a history of alcoholism and drug abuse, high levels of family conflict, lack of and/or inconsistent parental discipline have an effect on the child. Once these risk factors are identified, families may benefit from formal prevention programmes that can focus on enhancing family bonding, parenting skills (including communication, rule-setting, appropriate disciplinary actions) and changing parental behaviours that may place a child at risk for later abuse.

Community and school prevention programmes: school and community programmes are also being beneficial in substance abuse prevention. One of the many examples of school prevention programmes cited in the NIDA report is Reconnecting Youth (RY); a school-based prevention programme for high school students with poor school achievement and a potential for not completing their education. Participants may also show signs of multiple problem behaviours, such as substance abuse, depression, aggression, or suicidal behaviours. Students are screened for eligibility and then invited to participate in the programme.

Role of healthcare providers in prevention: Efforts from paediatricians and primary care providers to overcome these barriers can assist in identifying substance abusers and eventually lead to their treatment. Counselling and professional advice through drug abuse prevention education from health workers will go a long way to prevent illicit drug use.


The abuse of drugs and other substances constitutes one of the most important risk behaviours among adolescents in Nigeria. This has resulted in significant morbidity and mortality among adolescents worldwide. It is also important to emphasize the fact that the majority of our youths and adolescents come from different backgrounds and that drug use and addiction is not restricted to any one social class.  Many of these youth will lose their lives to drugs and alcohol and a significant number are likely to grow up to become problem drug users. Substance abuse problem is complex and large in magnitude, health workers, community leaders and schools implement interventions programmes that can decrease adolescent substance abuse rates.


Abudu, R. V. (2008). Young People and Drugs Abuse: Biennial International Conference on     alcohol, drugs and society in africa, Abuja, Nigeria. Between 23rd-25th, 2008. 

Journal of International Social Research. 5(20), 342 – 347. United Nations Office on Drugs     and Crime (UNODC) Vienna, Austria: UNDOC; 2010. World Drug Report 2010,     United Nations Publication, Sales No.E.10.XI.13

Lakhanpal, P. Agnihotri, A., K. (2007). Drug Abuse an International Problem: A short Review     with Special reference to African Continent. Journal of Medicine and Toxicology, 1(1),     1-11 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) A research-based guide for parents,     educators and community leaders. 2nd ed. Bethesda, Maryland, USA: NIDA; 2010.     Preventing drug use among children and adolescents.

Oluremi, D. F. (2012). Drug Abuse among Nigerian Adolescents strategies for counselling. 

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes. (2011). World Drug Report. Austria. No.: ISBN     978-92-1-148262- 272. Retrieved from http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-    andanalysis/WDR2011/World_Drug_Report_2011_ebook.pdf

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2007). Drug Abuse and Drug Dependece     Treatment Situation, in Nigeria. Accoding to UNODC data for the year 2007. Available     at http://www.unodc.org/docs/treatment/CoPro/Web_Nigeria.pdf

    Youth Arise (2014) Statistics of youths engagement in Drugs Abuse in Nigeria.

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