Thirty-one years ago, the UN General Assembly expressed determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse.
This move gave birth to the World Day Against Drug Abuse (WDADA) which is celebrated on June 26 every year and this year was not different.
This year’s theme focused on children and youth. It read: “Listen First – Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy”. This theme resonated with the recent upsurge in tramadol and codeine as well as cough mixtures abuse among young people in Ghana and Nigeria as reported in local and foreign media.
The recent upsurge indicates that efforts at achieving target 5 of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)3, “strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic and harmful use of alcohol” needs to be reviewed in the countries mentioned as well as in the sub-region.
The current situation of abuse of otherwise drugs that were supposed to be used for the relieving of pain is an issue that must be tackled head-on.
Accessibility to these drugs in Ghana is easy. With the proliferation of over the counter chemical shops nationwide, there’s the need for the Pharmacy Council of Ghana to streamline the activities of these over the counter chemical shops.
Also, the Pharmacy Council of Ghana, Food and Drugs Authority and the Narcotics Control must collaborate with the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority as well as the Ghana Immigration Service on our borders nationwide to ensure that any form of smuggling into the country is curtailed.
While efforts are made at preventing the abuse of drugs, efforts must be made at rehabilitating those who are already addicts. This can be done by establishing community rehabilitation centres nationwide. If we can pay for all the good things of political office what stops us from embarking on establishing community rehabilitation centres? It is one of the ways of making the theme for this year a reality into the future.
Young people usually go into these habits to have a sense of belonging. Some go into this habit to be able to do the things that they wouldn’t have done without the influence of any drug. In the Wa Municipality and some rural areas of the Upper West Region, reports show that young people abuse tramadol so as to be motivated to dance during marriage ceremonies, to work as drivers of tricycle taxis at night, to enhance their sexual performance, to enable them get high so as to commit callous acts during robberies; and, in the rural areas to work on the farms without fatigue. It’s no wonder that in the rural areas it is known in the local parlance as: “k) daa motor or k) daa lorry” – to wit, “work to buy motorbike or lorry”
In a news article, “NACOB cries for governing board” (Daily Graphic, Wednesday, June 27, 2018 edition, page 49) it was reported that the staff of the NACOB wanted to see a clear policy direction of NACOB on tramadol abuse and the use of illicit drugs. The report read, “Drug abuse: According to the source, the staff also wanted to see a clear policy direction of NACOB on tramadol abuse and the use of illicit drugs. It said they were particularly worried about the inaction of the agency to tackle the increasing use of illicit among youth, particularly in the educational institutions and some rural communities. Also of concern was the increasing cultivation of marijuana in certain cocoa and coffee growing areas”
From the above, there’s an indication that all is not well with the institution that must be in the front line of fighting against the current situation of drug abuse. Again, it shows that there’s a seeming competition between marijuana and cash crop cultivation. This shouldn’t be dismissed as a rumour. It should attract the attention of state agencies and nipped in the bud.
Drug abuse – abuse of tramadol and any other illicit drug must cause parliament, the executive and the judiciary to act; for when the youth in our communities are high on drugs, their acts know no bounds – everyone is at risk.
Immediately, there should be a national action that will empower the Narcotics Control Board to prevent the use of illicit drugs, abuse of tramadol, and assist in rehabilitating those who have already become addicts.
The UN and its agencies will do their best at the international levels, but as a nation, we need to take the infernal bull by the horn to rid our communities of drug abuse.