By Sunny A Ijomah
Nigerians have been urged to join hands with the government to tackle the increasing challenge of illicit drugs and substance abuse to stem the alarming rate of mental illness across the country.
Speaking to journalists in Awka, the Anambra State chairman of Nigeria Red Cross Society, Professor Peter Katchy, cautioned that illicit drug use and dependency among young people were harming the socioeconomic life of society and threatening the future of the country.
Fides reports that according to World Health Organisation, about fifty million Nigerians are suffering from one sort of mental illness or another while a survey by the Federal Government revealed that over fourteen-point three million Nigerians abused illicit drugs, representing fifteen per cent of the country’s population who are between fifteen and sixty-four years.
Professor Katchy explained that the use of illicit drugs by children and young people had lasting adverse effects on their mental and physical development, as, according to him, drug abuse could impact the brain’s ability to function in the short term, as well as prevent proper growth development later in life which, he said, created various problems for families, communities and entire society, including encouraging indecent dressing, display of psychiatric tendencies and often a disruption of academic and social activities.
The chairman regretted that in addition to illicit drugs, malnutrition occasioned by economic hardship was also compounding mental health issues resulting in anxiety and depression which had continued to disable people, especially youths, thereby undermining healthy lifestyles and encouraging social vices.
Professor Katchy urged families to strive to inculcate strong moral values in children while asking security agencies and schools to clamp down on those who abused gender dressing, as well as those who peddled illicit drugs and other intoxicants among minors and youths.
Also speaking, a retired school teacher, Mrs. Nkechi Onyekachukwu, urged parents to closely monitor the activities of their children and their friends to protect them against negative peer group influence that could lead to illicit drug use and attendant consequences.