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Nigerian women trapped in drug addiction

By Oluwaseun Olanipekun & Olaoluwa Abuloye

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The scourge of drug abuse among females in Nigeria has escalated to alarming proportions, prompting urgent calls for action. Despite persistent efforts to address this pressing issue, the problem persists across various  sectors, necessitating a deeper understanding of its root causes, impact, and effective intervention strategies.

Drug abuse among females often stems from a multitude of factors, including social pressures, trauma, and adverse environments, which compel individuals to seek solace or escape through substance use.

Moreover, societal influences and limited access to support services further exacerbate the cycle of addiction, making it challenging for females to break free from the grip of substance abuse. As personal testimonies shed light on the realities of addiction, pharmacists advocate for collaborative efforts and community support to combat this pervasive issue and pave the way towards recovery and resilience.

Drug abuse among females in Nigeria can stem from a variety of factors. Social pressures, including the need to conform to societal expectations or alleviate social anxieties, often drive females to seek acceptance or escape through drug use. Additionally, trauma, stress, and adverse environments contribute to the problem, as females may turn to drugs as a coping mechanism to numb emotional pain or alleviate stress. Moreover, family dynamics and exposure to drug-using relatives or communities can significantly influence a female’s likelihood of engaging in drug abuse, further perpetuating the cycle.

 Women sometimes get stuck using drugs, even though they know they’re dangerous. One reason is that drugs change how their brains work, making them crave drugs even when they know they’re bad for them. Also, some women use drugs to feel better when they’re sad or stressed, which can make it hard to stop using them. This mix of addiction and using drugs to cope makes it really tough for women to quit.

 Despite being aware of the risks associated with drug use, females often find themselves trapped in a cycle of substance abuse for several reasons. Firstly, addiction alters brain chemistry, leading to compulsive drug-seeking behavior, which overrides rational decision-making and perpetuates continued use despite awareness of the negative consequences. Additionally, drug use may serve as a coping mechanism to temporarily alleviate emotional distress, providing a sense of relief from underlying issues such as trauma or stress. This dual impact of addiction and coping mechanisms can make it incredibly challenging for females to break free from the cycle of substance abuse.

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 Moreover, social influences play a significant role in perpetuating drug use among females. Peer pressure, societal norms, and cultural acceptance of substance abuse create environments where it is difficult for females to resist the temptation to continue using drugs, even when they understand the risks involved. Furthermore, limited access to support services, including healthcare, rehabilitation facilities, and support networks, poses a significant barrier to seeking help and overcoming addiction, further perpetuating the cycle of substance abuse among females.

Women keep using drugs even though they know it’s risky because their brains get hooked on the feeling, making them crave drugs even if they know they are bad. Also, drugs can make them feel better temporarily, so they keep using them to cope with tough feelings. Sometimes, friends or the culture around them might make it seem normal or even cool to use drugs. Additionally, some women might not have easy access to places where they can get help to stop using drugs.

 Miss Paulina, who has been a drug addict for over six years, told The Hope that imitation led her to take drugs because she imitated her friend, who smokes, and how she liked the feeling she gets anytime she smokes.

 She explained that smoking boosts her appetite, keeps her happy, makes her sleep better, and keeps her up to work online.

 She described how she tried to stop smoking for two months, but it affected her way of thinking and memory, and how she was unable to eat well.

 “I have serious anger issues, and with the help of these pills and smoke, I don’t allow anything to bother me. I feel happy when I want to, unlike my normal self, who might be sad all day due to some reasons.”

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 “I only feel like I am losing my sanity when I get high on alcohol; that was the main reason I stopped drinking, but when I smoke excessively, I get famished, and I would not mind any food I see at that moment, even if it is spoiled soup, but not anymore. Whenever I want to smoke, I will make sure I have something available for my stomach, and the pills make me feel horny. I enjoy sex more when I am on drugs than my normal self. My body will respond faster to anything active at that moment.”

Another addict Miss Mayowa expressed her inability to stop taking drugs, citing their mood-enhancing effects and their role in alleviating her depression.

Despite acknowledging the potential downsides of drug use, this individual finds solace in the immediate benefits it provides. She admitted that, for the time being, she is not considering the negative consequences of her drug use, as she experiences a sense of joy and relief from mental illness whenever she indulges.

 Miss Tosin recounted how she was influenced by a friend during her ND days in the polytechnic, attributing her initial drug use to low self-esteem and traumatic mental health experiences.

She admitted that the substances her friend introduced to her provided relief from her issues, leading her to become reliant on drugs. Despite her awareness of the potential consequences, such as changes in her menstrual cycle and potential pregnancy complications, she expressed difficulty breaking free from her dependence on drugs.

 A 40-year-old woman who has stopped using drugs explained how she started using them at age 21 while also engaging in prostitution. She mentioned that she turned to drugs because they enhanced her effectiveness during sex.

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 She described her journey to recovery as tragic, stating, “It was a tragic story and experience. I was diagnosed with heart conditions that included diseased vessels and blood clots. It was only by God’s grace and with the help of my family and the father of my children that I was saved. However, even after receiving treatment, I couldn’t return to my normal life. It affected my sanity and my overall well-being. I  abused drugs for nine years straight, from age 21 to 29. All I can say is thank God for giving me a second chance because, by now, I would have been dead.”

Providing solutions, a pharmacist and drug use educator, Ebikenye, suggested a solution to drug abuse. He explained that the way forward is to help each other grow and have a high level of interaction among peer groups.

“I make sure to give advice and information about the use of medicine because we are the bridge between doctors and patients. We ensure that we counsel and advise any patient to maximize the desired effect of the drugs and minimize the untoward or adverse effects of the drugs.

“No matter how our government  arrests people with drugs, that doesn’t stop them from talking about it. But by providing maximum support to each other, paying attention to people who use it around us, establishing the consequences, and setting a good example, I think this will reduce the pressure among all, not just females.”

Oluwaseun Olanipekun, Olaoluwa Abuloye are on internship with The Hope from National Open University  

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