Newly inducted officers of the Nigerian armed forces will henceforth be subjected to routine and unscheduled medical tests to check drugs and substance abuse among the personnel.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Lucky Irabor dropped the hint in a keynote address sent to a three-day sensitization programme on drugs and substance abuse for the armed forces, which is holding at the Nigerian School of Infantry, Jaji, Kaduna State.
In the message delivered on his behalf by the Assistant Director, Training, Group Captain Rilwan Abdullahi, the CDS told the 350 newly recruitedpersonnel of the Nigerian Army taking part in the programme that he has been informed by the Force Commander that they will be undergoing routine un-scheduled drug tests.
He therefore warned that they must avoid substance abuse in order not to be caught on the wrong side of the Armed Forces Act as amended.
General Irabor was particularly thrilled by the theme of the programme “Preventing Substance abuse in the military” noting that it is apt in view of the plethora of extant and emerging mental health disorders that is impacting negatively on national security.
“The theme is a reflection of the ongoing transformation efforts in the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the Federal Government’s efforts in providing a clear roadmap for implementing country strategies on all aspects of drug control.
These are with a view to repositioning the defence and security agencies to tackle effectively the security challenges plaguing our nation,” he said.
It was his expectation that discussions on the theme will stimulate ideas that would assist in tackling substance abuse in the Armed Forces while repositioning the defence and security services for enhanced operational effectiveness in furtherance of Nigeria’s national security.
While commending the facilitators of the programme, Baba-Rabi Foundation and the African Council on Narcotics, for their technical assistance, the CDS urged participants to take keen interest and note observations and suggestions that would be made after the presentations and use them not just for theirknowledge but more importantly to prepare their minds on the challenges theywould be facing in the field after the exercise.
“I hope that the exercise will entrench in you the tenets that will prevent you from abusing substances which will inadvertently address some of the gaps in the National Defence and Security Sector Reform Agenda,” he added.
Also at the programme event, the Federal Ministry of Health lamented the situation in the country and noted that drug abuse has sadly reached an epidemic proportion in Nigeria.
The Ministry which was represented by a Director in the Department of Food and Drug Services, Mrs Andeyatso Ephraim Kifasi, painted a horrid picture of the devastation drug abuse has already wrought on different levels of the society and stated that it has been recognized as a threat to the health, security, governance, and development of our nation.
Kifasi quoted the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health which estimates the prevalence of drug use in Nigeria at 14.4%; corresponding to 14.3 million people between the ages of 15 – 64 who used drugs like Cannabis, Amphetamines, Tramadol, Codeine, and Cocaine at least once in the reporting period.
This is more than twice the global prevalence of 5.6% among the adult population.
Revealing some other results which she termed disturbing, Kifasi noted that theugly findings indeed present a challenge to the Nigerian government and stressed the importance of collaborative efforts by all relevant stakeholders.
“Thus, while strengthening our healthcare system to proactively respond and provide healthcare services to those in need of drug treatment, there is also an obvious need to support evidence-based prevention and early detection measures to curb this menace in the interest of the wellbeing and development of our people.
”To tackle the menace, the ministry has designated the menace of substance abuse including drug use disorders and related health conditions as a major public health concern, therefore adopting a multi-pronged approach to tackle the situation, she revealed.
“Through the EU-Funded Project, Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime, the Ministry has upgraded 11 hospitals as Model Drug Treatment Centres across the six geo-political zones of the country.
Worthy of note within the north-central geo-political zone is the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Kaduna.
These treatment centres provide both inpatient and outpatient treatment services to persons with drug problems.
“Over 1,500 health care practitioners have been trained in the provision of evidence-based drug treatment services.
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In addition, the Ministry monitors the regular collection, collation, and analysis of drug treatment data to determine drug use trends that can influence programme and policy interventions.
“As a further bold step in the fight against the menace of illicit drug use in Nigeria, in 2021, the Narcotics and Drug Abuse Programme in the Ministry was upgraded to a full-fledged Division in the Department of Food and Drug Services to coordinate activities for curbing the rising menace of drug abuse including the non-medical use of opioid pharmaceuticals among the adultpopulation in the country.
The Division is also responsible for promoting the sustained availability and rational use of controlled medicines while preventing diversion to illicit use.
“The Federal Ministry of Health has also developed the National Guideline for the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders which was launched on the 21st of June 2021.
The Guideline presents an allinclusive evidence-based document forthe treatment of substance use disorders in line with international best practices.
For Nigeria to overcome and successfully curb the drug menace there was theneed to critically review the socio-cultural, economic, and legal factors that have contributed to the epidemic.
“The contribution of organizations like Baba Rabi Foundation in conducting such awareness creation particularly within the Nigerian armed forces is highly encouraged.
“The Nigerian Armed Forces cannot perform at its best without adequate healthcare services of which evidence-based substance abuse prevention and treatment services are integral.
Therefore, there is a need to identify, properly understand and address the predictors and situations that are closely associated with substance abuse within the armed forces community,” the ministry submitted. NEXT EDITION