Drug abuse is a global public health challenge. According to the World Drug Report 2017, an estimated two hundred and fifty (250) million people used drugs at least once in 2015, and 29.5 million of these (or 0.6% of the global adult population) suffer from drug use disorders (DUD), that is, their drug use is harmful to the point that they may experience drug dependence and require treatment which is also not readily available as fewer than 17% of persons with DUDs are provided with treatment.
The effect of drug use on health and wellbeing estimated in Disease Adjusted Life Years (DALY) is also very grim. A whooping 25 million years of healthy life was lost globally in 2015, 17 million of which were attributable solely to DUDs of all drug types.
Much has been made of the drug use situation in Nigeria in recent months. However, because of the paucity of quality data, the real state of affairs may not be known. According to a 2015 Descriptive National Survey of substance use in Nigeria, National Lifetime prevalence rate of alcohol use was 39%, highest in the South East (61.5%) and lowest in the North East (3.9%). National lifetime prevalence of cigarette use was 12.2%, while those of tranquilizers and opiates (other than heroin) stood at 11.3% and 7.2% respectively. Injecting drug use (IDU) was reported to be 4.0% . Anecdotal reports also suggest a very high rate of abuse of tramadol and codeine in codeine containing cough syrups.
Drug use is particularly very high among young adults. A number of studies have been carried out to evaluate drug use among youths in Nigeria especially amongst those in secondary schools and institutions of higher learning. Dealing with the problem of drug abuse in this population is key to winning the war against drug abuse in the country. This is even all the more important as it has been shown that onset of drug use prior to the age of fifteen (15) is a consistent predictor of later drug use. Since youths spend the most of their time in a school environment, school based programs can be very effective in providing youths the knowledge and tools required to reduce involvement in drugs.
While many different interventions have been carried out by different agencies, civil society groups and other Non Governmental Organizations, there have hardly been any records of performance of the intervention in reducing the prevalence of drug use in the target populations. Most of these have been limited to information dissemination lectures which focus primarily on drugs and their effects, some of which arouse fear or emphasize on moral appeal. However, while these programs are a step forward, they are largely ineffective for reducing substance use.
It has been shown that comprehensive programs that focus on social competency promotion show better results than those that do not or those that focus more narrowly on resistance skills training. Cognitive behavioral training methods such as feedback, reinforcement, and behavioral rehearsal have also been found to be more effective than traditional lecture and discussion.
It seems clear that there is a pressing need for a comprehensive program(s) that incorporates the attributes of drug use prevention that have been proven to work, as well as aimed at achieving specific measurable outcomes. Project NAFDAC_YADA is a step in this direction.