Akin and Abdul are room-mates in the University. Akin is quiet, shy and easy going while Abdul is more out-going, has numerous friends and is usually very popular wherever he goes. In terms of academic performance, Akin is more studious and has always had excellent grades. Abdul on the other hand, usually skips classes and becomes frantic during exams. His performance is consistently poor and he is at risk of being withdrawn from the University. Akin secretly wishes to be as confident and popular as Abdul, and begins to tag along with him. However, Abdul smokes cigarettes and told Akin that it makes you cool. So Akin starts to smoke too. They become inseparable and are always together. Akin finally begins to enjoy some popularity too, and is hailed wherever he goes. The other friends of Abdul are Tobi and Fola.
Tobi: Guys, there is a party tonight and we really need to show up and make an impact. There will be lots of drinks, girls and fun.
Fola: Correct, I trust you to always have all the information about the ‘happening’ places. So let’s head out to the venue.
Akin: But guys, we have a test tomorrow. Maybe we should get some studying done, so we are prepared for the test.
The trio of Tobi, Fola and Abdul exchange glances and then burst out laughing.
Tobi: In between bouts of convulsive laughter, ‘but when will you ever relax and enjoy life now’. ‘Na only you dey this school?’
Fola: But Akin, I thought you were already a man. Forget the test, let’s go and catch some fun.
Akin: Feeling chastised and embarrassed but not wanting to appear like a weakling, ‘Okay, I will go with you guys’.
Abdul: ‘Ehn heen. Now you are talking’. Thumps Akin on the back. ‘Correct guy’.
Fola: Guys I have some new tablets and some sharp cannabis. Let’s hit up and then be on our way.
Akin: ‘What tablets? Cannabis? You mean like indian hemp?’ ‘No no no, count me out.’
Tobi: Visibly angry, ‘Abdul why do you keep bringing this ‘learner’ around us? I don’t like it at all. Please maybe you and this ‘baby’ should excuse us so that we the real men can have some fun.’
Akin: ‘Don’t worry guys, I think it is clear to me now that I don’t really belong here. I will excuse myself and head back to the hostel.’ Enjoy yourselves.
Why do young people turn to drugs?
Adolescents and young people generally are very sensitive to peer group influences and desire social acceptance from their peers. They do not want to be mocked or disliked by their peers. Thus, it is a phase where things such as facial appearance (worrying excessively over pimples), hairstyles, getting a tattoo, dressing styles, choice of music and so on are almost entirely aimed at successfully blending in with the group and being considered ‘sharp’ and ‘hip’.
Thus, strong peer pressure plays a vital role in determining whether or not a young person will turn to drugs. In the example above, Akin was almost on the verge of joining up and could very easily have been lured into taking drugs. Other risk factors include a family background where there is very little love and affection or where they feel neglected; low self-esteem and self-control; poor community networks or social support; high levels of aggressiveness and the need to fight always – which is common in poor and overcrowded neighbourhoods; as well as availability of drugs. Particularly in our cities today, where almost every street corner and our motor parks are ‘sure banker’ sites for obtaining drug supplies: alcohol, cannabis sedatives, stimulants, cough syrup (with codeine) e.t.c. It is most unfortunate that some of our young and popular musicians now also release albums which presents use of drugs as cool.
Who is at risk?
Every young person, male or female, and regardless of socio-economic status or religious standing of the parents may be at risk. Parents and caregivers need to identify that the risk is clearly present and they need to be very much on the alert to scrutinize the type of company they keep; where they are at any time of the day e.t.c. Adult caregivers should strive to maintain an open, non-judgemental and confidential relationship with their wards, so they can confide and trust you. Patiently engage and point out errors of judgement to them, instead of just getting mad at them. Schools should also ensure that the school environment is a drug free zone, where children can learn and study without the hazards of drug abuse.
Dr Jibril Abdulmalik
Tribune Article for the column “Your Mental Health & You”
Thursday, 28th April 2022