The Lagos State Ministry of Health, in collaboration with MTN Foundation and a consortium of stakeholders, has unveiled an anti-drug abuse awareness project known as Anti-Substance Abuse Programme (ASAP) to raise awareness on the menace of substance abuse and addiction in the country.
Speaking at the unveiling of the project in Lagos recently, the State Commissioner, Ministry of Health, Dr. Jide Idris said the Ministry is committed to working with other stakeholders to advance balanced, people-centred and holistic approaches to drug challenges, fully in line with the universal drug control convention.
He noted that the recent opioid crisis involving Tramadol and Codeine abuse and other severe drug use problems, compounded by gaps in health and social services leave far too many people without the help they need, leading to illicit drug cultivation and trafficking-related crime and violence.
“The unprecedented involvement of youths especially secondary school students and undergraduates in the use of abusive drugs is unacceptable as they are the future leaders”, he declared.
The Commissioner maintained that the State Government will continue to work with relevant agencies to stem the tide of illegal consumption of not only codeine but other mind-altering drugs.
“We will continue to monitor and ensure massive public enlightenment campaigns against drug abuse and misuse through both public and private health facilities to create awareness on the dangers of this growing social menace”, Idris stated.
The Commissioner said parents and guardians also have crucial roles to play in the collective fight against drug abuse by monitoring and maintaining close relationships with their children.
“Addiction does not start overnight, it is a gradual process that manifests various symptoms including changes in behaviours and attitudes,” he said.
Idris also charged community and religious groups to help in curbing the growing trend by increasing public awareness campaigns against drug abuse and misuse.
“All of us can play our part and take action; policymakers first and foremost, but also concerned citizens, parents, caregivers, teachers and engaged young people. We can all work together to prevent substance abuse and contribute to the actualisation of the Sustainable Development Goals”, the Commissioner said.
In his remarks, the MTN Foundation Chairman, Mr. Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi explained that the goal of the programme is to discourage first-time usage and casual substance abuse nationwide, saying that “This situation is urgent and important, substance abuse is a well-known and growing menace in our country. Our youth, the future of this nation, are at risk”.
“This why we must do as much as we can; as fast as we can, to chart the right course and help those coming behind us understand the dangers. We owe it to ourselves and our children”, he added.
The Chairman noted that the initiative will involve direct engagement activities targeted at schools, campuses, markets, motor parks and communities across Nigeria.