THE ‘HIGH’ SYNDROME: ROLES OF THE MEDIA AND GOVERNMENT IN CURBING SUBSTANCE ABUSE AMONG NIGERIAN YOUTHS–SULAIMON OLANREWAJU

DRUG SYNDROME

Being the text of a paper delivered by Sulaimon Olanrewaju, Special Adviser (Media)/Chief Press Secretary to Oyo State Governor, at the First Bayo Faleke Annual Lecture on Radio on Friday, March 29, 2024 at Fresh FM, Ibadan
Protocols

Introduction
In September 2023, a 24-year old lady had a birthday party in a South-West state where one of the guests offered to sell sachets of ‘Milo’ for N1,500 each. The guest, a young lady, had mixed marijuana with Milo and put same in Milo sachets, which had been so expertly sealed that no one would have suspected what the content of the sachets was. The guests at the party rushed the ‘Milo sachet’ and went on a binge, drinking and smoking themselves to get ‘high’. After getting high, fight eventually broke out among them and security operatives had to be brought in to maintain the peace. It was at that point that unsuspecting members of the public got to know that the party guests had gone on a marijuana trip.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), substance abuse, or misuse, is the harmful use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. A psychoactive substance is a drug that affects how the brain works and causes changes in mood, awareness, thoughts, feelings, or behaviour. Examples of psychoactive substances include alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, marijuana and some pain relievers. Other substances abused by Nigerian youths include, ice, molly, cannabis, tobacco, cigarettes, cocaine, sedatives, kolanuts, analgesics, glue, heroine, energy drinks, miraa, tramadol, tranquillizers, cough drops, antimalarial and antibiotics.
Substance abuse is detrimental to health and wellbeing of those involved in it. A Nigerian singer, Joshua Iniyezo aka Solidstar, recently disclosed how substance abused nearly ruined him.
According to him, he was introduced to a banned substance called Ice in 2021. He said the substance made him see himself as ‘’a king” who didn’t have to pay for any item. One day he walked from Awoyaya in Lagos Mainland to the Oriental Hotel a distance of about 32 kilometres.
Another singer, Inetimi Alfred, popularly known as Timaya, said he was introduced to Molly, a synthetic drug with psychedelic effects. The drug initially brought him happiness but eventually led to detrimental effects on his health, including weight loss and financial struggles.


His words: “When I took it, I did not understand myself. I was so happy that I dashed all the money in my pocket. So I wanted to just keep feeling like that.
“That was how I lost a lot of weight. I was not eating, I was just happy.


“When I said I was taking Molly, I was taking like three pills every day and it felt like medication.


“I got kicked out of jobs and contracts… people I was doing business with did not want to work with me again.”
So, substance abuse makes the youth to get ‘high’ but it does more than that. It can make them paranoid, it can precipitate heart attack or failure, stroke, seizures, sleep disorders, drowsiness, nausea, respiratory depression, fatigue, disorientation, impairment in memory, learning, concentration, and problem-solving, hallucinations, decline in academic performance, etc.


As seen in the case of Timaya, it can result in job loss and can pose a threat to relationships. There is also the tendency to engage in criminal activities when ‘high’.
Substance abuse among Nigerian youth is nearing the status of a pandemic. According to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA’s) statistics, about 40 per cent of Nigerian youths between 18 and 35 years are deeply involved in the abuse of drugs.


What does the future hold for the country if 4 out of every 10 young people are engaged in substance abuse?
Media and Substance Abuse
The media is central to our lives. The media shapes our perception of the world. The media is actually the gateway to the mind. The media accesses the mind through the eyes and the ears. So, media contents are food for the mind. The mind is where decisions are made and where opinions are formed. Since the media has access to the mind, the media subtly controls the mind and plays a major role in the decision-making process. So, when the media projects something as good many people in the society take a cue from the media and believe that it is good. In the same vein, when the media projects an act as evil, the society largely avoids it.


The media never leaves anything it comes in contact with the same way; it always affects them one way or the other. The media affects individuals in six various ways.
The media can affect cognition, which is the mental process. By affecting an individua

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