It’s no news that substance abuse is a major public health, social and individual problem and is seen as an aggravating factor for economic crises. A 2019 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows that 35 million people suffer from drug disorders globally and opioids such as codeine, morphine and many others are responsible for the death of two-thirds of the 585,000 people who died from substance abuse.
In Nigeria today, drug abuse has become a worrisome trend amongst the Nigerian youth. According to Atinuke Aduloju, Chief Superintendent of narcotics, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), she stated that over 40% of Nigerian youth within ages, 18-35 abuse drugs. This is not just a threat to public health in Nigeria but to the future of young Nigerians, as there is still a rapid increase in the number of youths addicted to drugs.
The effects of substance abuse are limitless and can affect the quality of life of those who fall victim. The youth constitute a large percentage of the labour market in Nigeria, and addiction to drugs affects workplace productivity, which is detrimental to the nation’s economy. Students involved in substance abuse are not left out as academic performance, relationships with fellow students, and the society at large are negatively affected.
In 2018, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) released a documentary on substance abuse in Nigeria and the development of addiction. In response, the Nigerian government prohibited the importation and production of codeine-containing cough syrup to reduce the availability of codeine, especially from pharmacies. Policies and taxes such as the sin tax have been developed to increase the cost of tobacco and alcohol to reduce purchase and consumption.
To curb this menace among youths in the society, different programmes, campaigns and initiatives have been established to raise awareness against substance abuse amongst the Nigerian youths. One of such initiatives is the Anti Substance Abuse Programme (ASAP) by the MTN Foundation.
MTN Foundation launched the ASAP initiative in 2019 as a multi-sectoral platform to increase awareness of the negative impact of substance abuse and addiction amongst young Nigerians. The goal of this scheme is to discourage first-time and causal use of addictive drugs amongst the youth. Since its inception, influential Nigerians such as singer, Joseph Akinfenwa popularly known as Joeboy, Neuro-psychiatrist and mental health advocate, Maymunah Kadiri and the Lagos State Commissioner, Ministry of Health, Dr. Jide Idris have lent their voice and shown commitment to working with stakeholders to drive this good cause.
This year, in partnership with the UNODC, the Ministry of Education and the NDLEA, the MTN Foundation is commencing another campaign to drive this purposeful cause. The campaign will include a variety of activities including the Unplugged =Training, Volunteer Training, Quiz Competition, an Advocacy Walk and a National Conference.
The Unplugged Training is an evidence-based program in partnership with UNODC and the Ministry of Education to educate and enlighten secondary school teachers in 30 Nigerian schools about substance abuse and the application of knowledge gained to positively impact the students. The volunteer training on the other hand is aimed at educating select individuals on how to counsel victims of substance abuse and help them overcome addiction. As much as the ASAP initiative is to discourage first-time drug abuse, there is also an urgent need to help those already dealing with substance abuse.
The advocacy walk is designed to raise awareness of the dangers of substance abuse on young Nigerians and its effects on society. The advocacy walk would also be an opportunity to inform the general public of the national conference and other activities taking place as a result of the ASAP initiative.
To enlighten young Nigerians about substance abuse and its consequences, the MTN Foundation in coalition with NDLEA is organizing a quiz competition on substance abuse for youth in secondary schools. The winners of the quiz competition will be announced on the 26th of June 2022 during the national conference.
The national conference which will hold on 26 June 2022 is to officially commemorate World Drug Day and have important conversations about the role and responsibilities of people and organizations in the fight against substance abuse.
The ASAP campaign is a strategic endeavor by the MTN Foundation to impact and make a significant change in the lives of many young Nigerians. In partnership with public and private organizations, all the activities lined up for the 2022 ASAP campaign will enlighten more people and help every Nigerian understand they have a part to play in the fight against substance abuse and addiction.