Stakeholders in the drug-related sector and members of the public have been called upon to make the uptake of social and health services for persons with drug use disorder available, rather than stigmatising and discriminating against them.
This came to the fore at an event organised by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Ogun State Command to commemorate the 2023 International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking in Abeokuta with the theme, ‘’People First: Stop Stigma and Discrimination, Strengthen Prevention’’.
Guest Speaker at the event, Dr. Martin Agwogie, in his keynote address said any act of stigmatisation and discrimination against persons with drug use disorder could negatively affect their marriages, relationships, and employment, saying it would be double jeopardy that constitutes a threat to their living.
Dr. Agwogie added that ’’the act usually brought about low self-esteem, widening gender disparity, as well as underreporting and measurement errors’’, emphasising the need for appropriate interventions.
While commending the Ogun State Government and the NDLEA on the various interventions aimed at curbing the menace of substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking, he said there was an urgent need to pay attention to evidence-based prevention with a focus on the development of strategies that could reduce risk factors.
Dr. Agwogie stated that continued investment in early childhood education and promotion of appropriate parenting skills should take center stage, calling for an urgent review of drug laws in the country.
Contributing, the Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Mr. Samuel Oyeleye, said the Prince Dapo Abiodun administration remained determined to tackle the menace of drug and substance abuse by ensuring that students and youths were positively engaged in activities that would help them achieve their lives objectives and goals.
Mr. Oyeleye, highlighted various interventions by the present administration to reduce the number of out-of-school children, including the promotion of technical and vocational education, as well as the establishment of the Ogun Techhub and the Southwest Resource Centre, where youths are trained on various information technology skills.
He noted that the State was the first to adopt the child rights law in the country, assuring that the State government would continue to support the Command in reducing the menace in the society.
Earlier in her address, the NDLEA State Commander, Mrs. Ibiba Odili, said the theme of this year’s event underscored the need for a people-oriented approach aimed at addressing drug-related stigma and discrimination to ensure that people with the disorder have access to healthcare, social support, and other interventions, noting that there was a need to consciously apply empathy and compassion when relating with them.
Odili, who lauded the State government and other relevant stakeholders for their support, said deliberate, collective, and strategic actions were required to address the issue of stigmatisation, enjoining participants to take the message of the day to their respective communities.
Also speaking, a Mental Health Nurse Consultant, Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Dr. Anthony Ogbebor said offering treatment would help to checkmate drug abuse and trafficking, adding that government, family, and society had to show care and support to persons with the disorder to properly check the use and trafficking of illicit drugs.