Experts raise alarm over new wave of hard drugs' abuse
Drug abuse

By Tumininu Ojelabi Hassan

‘Biodu, a 34 year old school dropout and drug user, lives with his single mother and grandmother in Egbeda, a suburban of Lagos, in Alimosho local government. He had been involved in marijuana use and sale for some time to the concern of his family. But recently, matters came to a head, which almost took his life.

Around 11am on this fateful day, he was seen running from the road to their street that people stopped to observe. He ran into a neighbour’s room and collapsed on the floor. The man, who was outside raised alarm, and people rushed and carried the almost lifeless body outside, with his teeth firmly clenched, eyes popping and turning white, and body twisting and convulsing. There was pandemonium, as the women wailed, and other called for help.

It was Ayo, a friend of the victim, who took charge, with a mischievous and, knowing and confident smile on his face, assertively rejecting every suggestion to take him to hospital, insisting that all was under control. Nobody knew what to do, but just stood and watch anxiously, as he nursed him back precariously to life, after dispensing several sachets of cold pure water on him.

His confidence confused most people. Later he confided in this write that it was the effect of Colorado, a new designer drug common among youths this days.

The prevalence of drug and substance abuse has become a menace to the Nigerian society and has contributed to the high rate of violent crimes and other anti social behaviours, as well as health challenges, such as mental disorders, depression, psychosis, anxiety, addiction, heart related diseases, stroke and sudden deaths among youths.

There seems to be a drug and substance abuse pandemic in Nigeria. A large percentage of youths smoke Shisha, Colorado, Arizona, Marijuana, Inhale gas from balloons (Laughing Gas) and indulge in the use of hard drugs like Tramadol, cocaine, Molly, Codeine and Methamphetamine.

In the past weeks, several videos of youths smoking shisha, inhaling gas from balloons (laughing gas) and misbehaving after smoking Colorado have surfaced on social media thereby stirring controversies online.

A report by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime in Nigeria indicates that 14.4% (14.3 million) of people aged between 15 and 64 years abuse drugs. In addition, about 30 million Nigerians spend $15,000 on psychotropic drugs annually.

Shisha, also called Hookah, is usually a combination of tobacco prepared in molasses and flavoured with fruit flavours. It is a method of smoking tobacco in which the smoke is filtered through water before inhalation. While it is often perceived as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes, it is important to understand that shisha smoking still poses health risks.

According to Dr. Olawale Ogunlana, Shisha smoke contains complements from both the tobacco and coal, which include volatile aldehydes, Carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (Pah). Pah is very high in tobacco and coal contains benzopyrene, which is a potent cancer causing chemical.

“People believe smoking Shisha is healthier and safer than cigarettes, whereas it is as harmful as smoking cigarettes. It’s equivalent to smoking at least ten sticks of cigarettes daily,” he clarified.


“The hazardous effects of Shisha on health could lead to cancer, cardiovascular diseases and infection.

“Shisha can affect people in three major ways: First way is Infection, it is a communal smoking, which involves sharing the same hookah pipe. It is a key risk for hepatitis, herpes and tuberculosis. It is important to state that Hepatitis and Herpes can’t be cured.

“The hose of the device used in smoking Shisha generates moisture, which is a perfect breeding ground for microorganisms that cause tuberculosis.

Two disease epidemic that occurred around the world was traced back to Shisha.

“The second way is that Shisha can cause nine different types of cancers. prostrate cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, which is cancer of the digestive tract, lung cancer, oral cancer. Also, herpes infection can lead to cancerous transformation of body cells, which can contribute to cancer.

“The third way is cardiovascular system damage. The bicotine and nitrous oxide chemicals in it increases the heart rate by 300% and after a while it decreases it. This leads to coronary disease, heart attack and stroke,” he explained.

In addition to the three major effects stated above, Shisha can lead to Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, infertility, depending on how an individual is exposed to Shisha smoking. It can cause ovarian cysts in women. When taken by pregnant women, babies can be born with low birth weight and they can also develop congenital problems.

Dr. Olawale addressed the recreational use of Laughing gas, a potent sedative that is used as an anesthetic for people undergoing surgery. Laughing gas contains Nitrous Oxide, which is safe when taken in appropriate doses.

“Recreational use of balloons that I have been seeing on Social media puts one at risk of overdose. That is when it becomes a very dangerous substance, which can cause paralysis, permanent nerve damage, low blood pressure, heart attack, dependence and addiction, psychosis amongst others. For the women, it is imperative to note that Nitrous Oxide can be used as a sedative to assault women,” he warned.

A street lingo for synthetic cannabinoids, Colorado is a trending psychotropic drug commonly used by many Nigerians, especially youths, to get intoxicated. Colorado can lead to extreme hallucinations, shaking, confusion, anxiety, paranoia, insanity, lung disease, fast heart rate, increased blood pressure, addiction, death amongst others.

Various embarrassing videos of youths have surfaced online. The key thing observed in these videos is that, these youths are usually in an unconscious state, while their friends poured water on them probably to regain their consciousness. Last week, a video of a guy misbehaving after smoking Colorado trended, this guy was knocked out and his friends, who were recording this video chanted “On colos” while pouring water on him.

Dr. Olawale added that Mental health issues linked to hard drugs and substance abuse is due to dependency and exposure to these drugs and substance.

“Nitrous oxide can lead to dependency, when someone is chronically dependent on it and when they want to withdraw from this habit, withdrawal symptoms and mental health issues like anxiety and depression set it,” he said.

The adverse effects of hard drugs and substance abuse by youths can’t be undermined, as it has led to deteriorating mental disorders, psychological disorders, aging, drastic weight loss, loss of job and relationships due to addiction, inability to function well, stigma, financial instability amongst others. Based on research, various factors like peer pressure, joblessness, relief from stress and frustration have promoted hard drugs and substance abuse in the country.

According to Dr. Olawale, sensitisation, lifestyle modification, rehabilitation, enforcement of age restrictions in public places are effective measures to reduce the rate of hard drugs and substance abuse in the country.

“A lot of young people are dying as a result of drugs and substance abuse. Sensitisation is the best way to reduce the rate of drug abuse amongst youths. The key approach is to educate them on the negative impacts of these habits by encouraging lifestyle modification, because hard drug abuse is lifestyle related.


“Rehabilitation centres and healthcare facilities should be put in place to rehabilitate people addicted to hard drugs. Age restrictions should be enforced in public places like Clubs, hotels, bars and lounges. Also, government should partner with medical practitioners and influencers to create awareness on the effects of hard drugs and substance abuse in the country,” he suggested.


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