Dr Taiwo Sheikh, a Psychiatrist and Chief Executive Officer/Medical Director, Federal Neuro- Psychiatric Hospital, Kaduna, in this interview speaks about the spike in drug abuse and addiction among youths, particularly girls in Northern Nigeria.
By Tajudeen Suleiman
We are looking at the abuse of illicit drugs among women.
What can abuse of drug do to the human beings?
When we say substances abuse or drug abuse, we’re referring to a mental condition in which because of the way and manner the person is using the substance, it has resulted into loss of some function. And the person is not able to do things the way they used to do. Then we say the person is suffering from significant loss of function, which may be physical activities, movement, and general wellbeing.
Or it could be social activities – your interaction with people. Or it could be psychological; your ability to comprehend what is happening, your thoughts, what you say, your degree of happiness, degree of sadness, worry or fear.
So, where there is some loss of function in the person, you say the person is suffering from substance abuse. He has taken the substance to a degree to which he is not able to function well. In medical language we say there is significant impairment-the individual is impaired. So its now a sickness.
That is what we mean by abuse. It has become a condition that requires attention, in the sense that the person may not necessarily be hospitalised, but something needs to be done. The individual needs help.
Does anybody in the condition you have described stand a chance of being reformed?
Some of these drugs exert their influence on the brain. So we call them psychoactive substances. So the use of such psychoactive substances could also lead to addiction. When we say someone is suffering from addiction, it is a very serious condition in the sense that the individual, because of the excessive and lack of control in the use of such substance, cannot function normally and effectively without the substance.
So it has become a situation where the user is no longer using the drug or substance to enjoy, but using it to live, to survive. That is addiction. He cannot even sit calm without the substance. He will start manifesting certain behaviours because of the lack of substance in his body. And once he takes the substance, the behaviour or symptoms will disappear.
You can now understand the extent the person will go when his body needs the substance. He will do anything to get the substance. This is a very severe form. Abuse is milder, but it is also a condition that requires attention. Addiction is a more serious condition.
We have seen some young men and women with mental problems and people attribute to drug abuse. Can addiction lead to madness?
Not only that, some of the substances even changes the working of your brain. Addiction itself has changed the working of your brain, but it will further change the working of your brain to start experiencing things that are not there; to start hallucinating. You hear what is not there; you see what is not there and it will change your belief system and thinking process. It will change the way you link your thoughts together.
What would you call such a person? Of course you will say the person is mad. In medical field, we call it psychotic disorder.
There are stages in drug abuse and addiction that can manifest with psychosis (madness). And there are so many other conditions that could manifest as a result of addiction, which ranges from anxiety to depression, deliberate self-harm or suicide. Socially it could lead to poverty, loss of jobs diseases of the kidney, eye, nervous system, hearing loss and so on. Madness is one of them.
From your experience, what are the causes of drug or substance addiction?
How often do you get cases of victims of drug or substance addiction?
What are the chances of complete rehabilitation for addicts?
How did you come to the conclusion that there is an increase in the number of women who abuse drugs?
Of course we have women taking alcohol and all that, but the cough mixture has now come. Cough mixture is readily available and it can change the working of the brain and give you some kind of feeling.
You know in this part of the country, its not easy for a woman to go to a beer parlour and drink bear or even buy and take home. But the cough mixture is easier.