A Perilous Slide

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A Perilous Slide

A Perilous Slide
January 04
22:55 2016

The dam is already bursting at the seams and if left unattended to, the flood will sweep away so many ambitious youths, hapless young ladies and impressionable silver spoon kids. This is no doomsday prophecy. Among the Island in-crowd, the jet-set and the nouveaux riches, a perilous habit has become so widespread that it is assuming a life of its own. What are we talking about? Just like that, marijuana and its other derivatives have suddenly lost the allure they used to hold for many. Now, the use of cocaine, that powerfully addictive narcotic with the tendency to make a frequent user go bunkers, is the order of the day. . In this report; Ugochi Ndukwe alerts many Indian hemp and cocaine users to its inherent dangers.

If you belong to the above-mentioned circle or you are a new inductee into the happening mix, one of the tests of your might is to sniff cocaine. How we knew? Attend any rave party in Lagos or Abuja and you would be shocked to discover that cocaine is virtually always on the menu list. More worrisome even is that young ladies, especially those who want to ‘belong’ and those who play hard-to-get to lascivious men, always fall prey to this ploy at such parties.

We gathered that this happens with the spiking of a prospective victim’s drink whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic, while a smoker’s cigarette is unconsciously laced with the lethal dose. Equally, many posh bars on the Victoria Island-Lekki, Ikeja, Apapa, Festac, Lagos we were reliably informed, now have special cubicles for cocaine users who come in with eyes bright and shiny but depart looking like a cloud of doom

It would not be out of place to mention the pathetic case of a popular silver spoon who works in the family-owned company. Blessed with very good looks and educated at Ivy League institutions abroad, this dapper dresser is an unabashed cocaine user and his regular spot is a club owned by an Igbo native. So bad did this young man’s addiction degenerate that he had to be hurried off to a sanatorium where he still visits for routine checkup.

But his folks should be grateful because the parents of another silver spoon are still cursing their lucks for turning a blind eye as their son’s use of cocaine spiraled out of control.

The young man died few years ago in Abuja due to an overdose but the parents maintained a sealed lip because of the embarrassment such news would stir. As much as one cannot but commends the National Drug law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, in its fight against narcotics, so much is still to be done.

Enlightenment campaigns need to be intensified while clubs, bars and other such fun places should be routinely combed to check this perilous slide. Failure to do this, Nigerians is on its way to losing some of its brightest minds who, no doubt, belong to this generation; the generation of cocaine users.
In Lagos, as in other parts of Nigeria, Monday mornings are held sacrosanct. For traders, businessmen, students and corporate workers, they believe that whatever happens on a Monday morning determines to a large extent how the week will turn out.

However, for a small section of Lagosians, Mondays, whether in the morning or at night, are no different from other days and time of the week. Welcome to Afrika Shrine, the popular entertainment and events centre in Agidingbi, Lagos owned by Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, Afrobeat musician and scion of Fela, the late iconoclast and Afrobeat creator. It was around 10am on a typical Monday.

Cars of varying shapes and sizes dot the length and breadth of the narrow street that has played host to the shrine for the past seven years. A familiar, pungent whiff pervaded the air. Youths, scruffy-looking individuals and many other interesting characters streamed in and out of the shrine. While some pitched their tent under a canopy stationed at the entrance bellowing smoke from jumbo-sized rolls of Indian hemp, some others just ambled about with their ‘joints’ not caring who was watching. They were in their own world; a world where Indian hemp otherwise known in their parlance as ‘Igbo’, Eja (Dried Fish), Marijuana, Weed, Indo, Morocco and Ganja among others, is a common staple.

The scenario was not any different inside the cavernous hall of the shrine. A few metres from the foot of the stage, two young ladies chatted away in a drunken stupor, their eyes literally smouldering while dragging on their roll of Indian hemp. They were completely oblivious to the goings on around them. A few youngsters, equally stoned, banged on their tables and empty bottles of beer and sang on the improvised beat. It is a no man’s land. Around 1pm, the caliber of customers changed. Well-dressed gentlemen, some chauffeur-driven, obviously out on lunch break strolled in for the same purpose; to itch their soothe.

A young man, in his late 20s, disclosed that there is no better, more secured environment to indulge in this act than at the Shrine. “We are always at home here; no disturbance of any sort. Even the people who come here to smoke comport themselves in a gentlemanly manner. This is so because this place is a leveler, we are all here for the same purpose,” he said. At inception, smoking and sales were restricted to the fringes of the shrine. However, as time went by, the barrier was broken and it became an over-the-counter commodity. Now, the shrine is unarguably one of the few places where the sale of Indian hemp is deregulated and its consumption unrestrained.

It is, however, not only the Afrika Shrine that Indian hemp has become commonplace; the situation is the same in many parts of the metropolis, so much that it is now being sold by Hausa stall owners popularly called Aboki in every nook and cranny where they have shop. From Mushin reputed for its notoriety, Agege, Oshodi, to urbane areas like Ikeja, Victoria Island, Festac and Surulere, Indian hemp has become the favourite pastime of many. Bunmi Oni, a clinical psychologist said that unlike in the past when it was perceived as the exclusive preserve of motor park touts, prostitutes, the dissipated and the depraved, Indian hemp and cocaine have permeated the entire strata of the society as the veritable agent of satiating a seemingly irrepressible itch.

According to him, “Indian hemp is consumed by 13 per cent of full adults, 48 per cent of youths especially males and 0.8 percent of the female population.” A bizarre statistics no doubt but Oni knows what he is talking about. A report from the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, UNODC, stated that nearly 162 million people are actively into marijuana worldwide with Nigeria accounting for almost 20 per cent of that figure. Yet, this is an indulgence with considerable physiological and cognitive impairment. Tolani Olashoju, a neuro-surgeon said, “There is a variation in the intensity of effects brought about by the use of cannabis grown in different parts of the world. There is also a variation in the nature of the effects it may arouse.



However, cannabis distorts the reasoning faculty. Excessive indulgence can incite unpremeditated act or a violent act.” Continuing, Olashoju said hemp can lead to psychosis and a destruction of brain cells while ‘It may also increase the chances of you developing lung disease, such as chronic bronchitis, or make it worse if you already suffer from it. Regular smoking may also interfere with your lungs’ ability to resist infections.’ Oni, while highlighting some of the areas where hard drugs can be most injurious as physical, sociological and psychological, concurred that indeed many of the psychiatric cases in the country today are an offshoot of this indulgence. “Like sex, marijuana is psychologically addictive.

Frequent use leads to mental disorder like hallucination, instability, sexual dysfunctions and aggression. There is growing evidence that regular, long term cannabis smoking may lead to cancers of the respiratory system like tongue, lip and throat,” Oni said. Marijuana-induced insanity, the Psychologist said, varies from mild, moderate to severe but “When detected early, willingness to quit and proper clinical management can salvage the abuser.” There was an agreement however that Indian hemp which contains just 10 carcinogenic components compared to cigarette’s 2000 is potentially more dangerous.

Chidi Molokwu, a sociologist, affirmed that drugs leaves people in a state of euphoria, a world of make belief, a confusional state of consciousness, an irresponsible attitude and instability of mood and character. “Such individuals are inactive in a state of seeming activity. They are unproductive and do not have the sense to be useful or meaningful to themselves or the society. In that state, they have no acumen to address problems forgetting that it doesn’t solve problems, it only compounds it,” he said. Further, he averred that such individuals don’t see anybody as superior to them in judgment and correction because their reasoning faculty had been contaminated. “They are suspicious and paranoid of people they have dealings and interactions with. At that stage, they are potentially dangerous to the society,” he said.

Curiously, however, the situation might not be as bad as it sounds because unfermented cannabis also has an advantage! In his hypothesis, a Lagos-based medical doctor said the use of Indian hemp is peculiar to an individual; “Some people smoke it for pleasure while others smoke it to dull a physical pain. Some smoke it to relax while some smoke it to blot out the world. Some smoke it to escape a prevailing reality while others smoke to expand their understanding of reality. For some it is a doorway to understanding while for others it is a gateway to oblivion.

The use depends on the user.” He said further that indeed, it is established that cannabis use attracts the mentally unstable, the prevalence of major mental disorder among cannabis users appears to be little if any higher than that in the general population. “Therefore, true cannabis psychosis must be earlier. In fact, cannabis use alternatively is protecting some less stable individuals from a psychosis,” he declared. According to a report from the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training, cannabis can be used in treating severe weight loss in people with cancer or AIDS.

“It may help increase the person’s appetite and relieve their nausea and neurological disorders. Cannabis may be useful in relieving the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and other movement disorders, because it helps relieve muscle spasms,” the report stated.

Botanically known as cannabis sativa L., a flowering plant from which various drug preparations containing delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, which is the active ingredient that produces the intoxicant effects can be obtained, the commonest forms of cannabis are marijuana, hashish and hashish oil. Marijuana, which is the most common and least powerful form of cannabis is made from the dried leaves and flowers of the plant. It is normally mixed with tobacco and smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes called joints, or packed into a small ‘cone’ and smoked in a water pipe known as a bong.

Indian hemp is reportedly one of the first plants cultivated by man and perhaps, one of the most versatile. It is also one of oldest and most important fibre and oilseed plants. Until the early 20th century, it reportedly provided most of the textiles worn in Europe, America and Japan, as well as most of the paper. The world’s finest paintings were reportedly painted on hemp linen with hemp oil. Those perhaps were in the dark days. The world seems to know better now as there is a concerted effort worldwide to make the cultivation of hemp an offence of the magnitude of a felony.

Believed to have been introduced into Nigerian market in the early 20th century, cannabis became entrenched after the civil war of 1967 and was made even more popular by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, whose old shrine in Lagos was a one-stop shop for ‘Igbo’, its pervasiveness is the reality the Nigerian government confronts today

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