Substance abuse and the illicit trafficking of drugs is evil in our society and disorientation among a majority of the youth. This is an industry that works generally on a vicious cycle of manufactured demand and then supply. In view of the growing menace and the deterioration of the quality of life caused by this canker, the General Assembly at the United Nations, in December 1987 designated June 26, to be celebrated with effect as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
The Day as an event is celebrated worldwide with much conscious fervour and enthusiasm to make people aware and emphasize the hazards of drug addiction and illegal trafficking. A problem which is a major deterrent to humanity and a poison to the well-being of the youth, in particular, it poses greater problems to the socio-economic and political stability of a nation as also disturbing the sustainable development of a nation.
Globalization has fueled the spread of substance abuse and therefore the cost is felt universally. Drug abuse was once seen as a marginalized threat to society, however, it is now seen as a threat to the very existence of families, communities and nations as a whole. Drug addiction has the potential to undermine public health, social and economic development, community cohesion and in general the future of the next generation. The damage visited upon the lives and communities cannot be underestimated.
The damage can be in the form of debilitating health effects such as TB, HIV, Hepatitis B among others. Illicit trafficking also fuels money laundering and corruption which is a great enabler of trade and terrorism. On the economic front, it has the potential to wipe out the livelihood of families especially if these substance abusers are the breadwinners in the home, we can also talk about the security threats posed by these habits; these include stealing, gun violence and armed robbery.
According to the world drug report of 2018, it is estimated that about 275 million people worldwide which is about 5.6% of the world's population aged between 15- 64 use drugs. Ghana like many other countries are facing a growing substance abuse problem, though obtaining accurate data remains a challenge, the youth are the most affected.
According to the ECOWAS drug news, a quarterly ECOWAS Commission report on the drug abuse menace in West Africa, an estimated 1.25 million Ghanaians are thought to be having problems with substance abuse, mostly marijuana. Other substances that have found its way into our society include Cocaine, Heroine, Methamphetamines, and other synthetic opioids such us tramadol, codeine among others.
A recent school health survey by the Ghana Health Service in conjunction with the World Health Organization showed that 23 per cent of Ghanaian school pupils had tasted drugs at least once. According to the Narcotics control board of Ghana, there are over 70,000 illicit substance abusers in Ghana within the age of 15- 50 years. (NACOB, 2014;) the WDR 2018, also sighted Ghana as one of the highest consuming countries of tramadol as a recreational drug. This statistic is startling as it depicts a gloomy future for the youth in Ghana.
The youth forms about 80% of the total population of Ghana, the numerical strength of the youth is an unlimited avenue to which the socio-economic development of the nation can thrive and national development improved. However, there is a worrying trend creeping into the social fibre of Ghana which is substance abuse and addiction. On a daily basis, as I focus on my work, I am faced directly with families desperately seeking treatment for their relatives who are addicted to drugs.
Most of these clients are between the age of 15- 45 years. This age bracket forms the core of the nation's workforce and on whom the future of the nation lies. As we celebrate Drugs Day, we must also recognize that the stigma associated with drug use remains one of the major impediments to the treatment and social reintegration into society. Community support is extremely important to prevent, treat, rehabilitate and accept those addicted to substances. Help break the stigma and promote faster recovery!
The fight against drugs requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders:
- The Government and policy Makers needs to develop social interventions that will create jobs and permanent livelihoods for communities, as joblessness, depression and poverty, in general, are major enablers for substance users.
- Children need to be educated at home about this problem and school as well. Families and counsellors should talk to the children and people who are in danger. Parents should look after their children and help them become responsible. They should encourage their child if he/she is a victim to keep self busy by opting for a job or visiting rehabilitation centres.
- Basic education is the first step to eradicate this menace of Substance abuse. Families and communities should come together as a basic unit of society to play a role in the development of the child by being supportive towards him to fight his battle against the abuse.
- As an individual, be a good role model and empower young people to deal with life challenges to counter substance abuse.
- We must provide accurate information on the destructive socio-economic effects of substance abuse to bring about positive changes in behaviour.
- The cultivation of the entire drug yielding crop should be banned and their production should be regulated by organizing anti cultivation drives on this day. it may be argued that the legalization of Drugs Especially Cannabis can yield over 7bn dollars in revenue annually, However, lets honestly ask ourselves, who will be the beneficiaries, do we have the systems and the Laws to control its usage. The collateral damage posed to society can easily wipe out the annual returns on its legalization and decriminalization.
- The law enforcement agencies should also be more proactive and accountable by following the examples of strategies that nations adopted and have brought positive results in their nation. Better and sophisticated Resources must be placed at the disposal of the Police to combat the ever-growing clandestine modus operandi of these traffickers.
To conclude I would like to end with the words of the former UNSG “Unless we reduce demand for illicit drugs, we can never fully tackle cultivation, production or trafficking. Governments have a responsibility to counteract both drug trafficking and drug abuse, but communities can also make a major contribution.
Families, schools, civil society and religious organizations can do their part to rid their communities of drugs. Businesses can help provide legitimate livelihoods. The media can raise awareness about the dangers of narcotics."( Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Message for the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on June, 26, 2011).