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Drug Addiction and the Boy-child: Where we stand as a Society

By: Olamilekan Mashika

Image Credit: iStockphotos

In the world we live, there are many reasons why people search for ways to feel better. To some, the need to wash away the constant lack of love, to others, they need to relieve stress. Many, indeed, just want to be happy throughout their lifetime but the universe seems against this notion. And to others, they need willpower to face their fears and surpass hurdles. These reasons, while not exhaustive, are some of the factors which contribute to the human need to find an external factor or substance from which they can derive joy.

As has been established above, the need to feel better has led people to embark on finding what could satisfy their innermost desire and make them forget all their worries. And there comes drugs. One thing we must also establish is that the stereotype on the boy-child has made his environment naturally uncomfortable for him that he constantly dreads everything around him and needs something to help him get by life. Many boys, right from teenage hood, are pushed to getting financially independent. Some are told to just man up and bottle their emotions. We are sentient beings, and emotions are not meant to be bottled. They are meant to be expressed loudly. However, boys are taught otherwise, and for this, there is the need to find that which will help to keep the emotion bottled, forget their worries, and have happiness, however temporary it is.

We will not even try to deny it that perhaps drugs indeed give these people what they want, but it comes at a very great cost. First, let us get around what drugs are. The Australian Government department of health simply defined drugs as substances that change a person’s mental or physical state. What is drug abuse? The College of Medicine, University of Ibadan defined drug abuse as excessive use of psychoactive drugs, such as alcohol, pain medications or illegal drugs. It can lead to physical, social or emotional harm. What then is drug addiction? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, United States, Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterised by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. If we are to consider each of these definitions and place it in an ideal situation, then we can say that the path towards addiction goes thus; a boy is deeply affected by socio-economic issues throughout his life, is thoroughly influenced by peers and introduced to drugs to feel good and forget his worries (since that is what real men do), then he constantly uses this more than his health can take, consequently, he always needs to take these drugs to feel alright and be at the top of his game. One indication to take from this is that addiction actually set in the moment he felt rejected by the world. The society indeed pushed him towards making decisions that would affect his life, and so he did.

Let’s educate ourselves on the types of drugs that can be abused. Any drug can be abused so far they are drugs, however these are the common drugs that are abused: Cannabis (Igbo as it is called in the western part of Nigeria), tramadol, Indian hemp and codeine. One disturbing statistic about codeine is that research has it that 28% of codeine addicts in Nigeria are secondary school students and also 22.7% are adolescents and youths of 25 years or younger. This leads us to the juncture of seeking why young boys, teenagers are heavily abusing drugs and suffering from addiction? One major factor is peer pressure. As a result of the neglect from home, and the need for boys to have things figure out themselves, they turn to their peers for understanding, and seeking for means to survive in the world. The peers, who themselves, suffer the same ailment as one another and carry with themselves same symptoms, all believe that one way to figure things out is to do what “men do”, and this is to have a sense of belonging. Men drink, and so they should drink. They want to feel alive, and not have the outward feeling of being a weakling, and so they follow the steps that were taken by their peers and subsequently are introduced to drugs. Now, drugs affect the brain, no doubt. There is a shred of deception it offers that clouds one mind, and makes one feel on top of the world after taking it. This is why many scholars have established that drug abuse can indeed be a mental disorder. Many resort to taking drugs because their mental health was not taken care of. Indeed, scholars established that drug addiction is said to be a brain disorder because it involves functional changes in the brain circuit and these changes can last a lifetime even after the usage has been at stopped.

Should drugs or substance intake be encouraged?

Of course not. Although drugs offer momentary happiness, and gives certain ‘okay’ feeling after the intake, the long term effect is damning. The risks in taking drugs outweigh the reward. Scholars have established that if addiction is left untreated, it can last for a lifetime and lead to untimely death. We do not want people who should contribute positively to our community to die before their time.  Drug abuse makes activities which one finds pleasurable previously become unpleasable. One cannot live a day without taking drugs; in fact, addiction becomes so compulsive that one must take drugs just to complete a task. While this is damning on our mental and general health, it is drains our finances. These are indications of the adverse effect of drugs.

How can we eliminate addiction in our society?

First, we have traced the problem to its roots, and now, we must pull it out right from the roots. Elimination of societal stereotypes that put heavy burden on the boy-child, and which dictates how a boy should live. These stereotypes are not encouraging as some are just too primitive. Parents must always be there for their child. They must learn to understand who their child is, and listen to their complaints and find solutions to them. They shouldn’t over indulge, lest they spoil the child. Education on drugs and drug abuse is also paramount. Let teachers not be too condemning in teaching topics relating to drugs, rather they should be accommodating and friendly, so that those involved can open up to them and solutions can be proffered. There are many conversations which we feel teenagers or young boys shouldn’t be part of, conversations like sex and drugs. But what we fail to realise is that when they do not get the education they are supposed to, they search for this education externally. From a brother in the hood, or a friend in school, and this can lead to an overwhelming amount of peer pressure. There, they can indeed learn the wrong thing. Also, in our society, there is the need to recognize what is called mental health. One of the reasons that push boys towards drugs is because of an unsound mental health. Drugs indeed affect the brain and the mind. There is the need to guard and protect one’s mental health as a failed mental health could lead to one taking drug till subsequently, addiction sets in.

Remember, raising functional men is important to having a sane society.

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