Witnessing a vulnerable young person struggling, unable to function normally or coordinate their life, is not just distressing but profoundly disheartening. Is their predicament a result of personal choices or the influence of peers? In Nigeria, a staggering 30 to 35 million individuals spend around USD $15,000 to USD $30,000 annually on psychotropic drugs and alcoholic beverages. The misuse of these substances, coupled with related criminal activity, has led to a significant surge in youth incarceration. According to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) report in Nigeria, 14.4 percent (14.3 million) of individuals aged 15 to 64 abuse drugs. An analysis of a nationwide survey in 2015 revealed alcohol as the most prevalent substance, while cannabis ranked highest among illicit drugs. Shockingly, drug abuse permeates educational levels and even reaches secondary school students.

Addiction, as defined by Wikipedia, is a neuropsychological disorder characterized by a persistent and overwhelming urge to use drugs or engage in behaviors that yield natural rewards, despite resulting harm and negative consequences. Repeated drug use alters brain function, perpetuating cravings and weakening but not entirely eliminating self-control. This alteration in brain function underpins addiction as a complex disorder, involving intricate psychosocial and neurobiological elements, often involuntary in nature. Key indicators of addiction encompass compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, obsession with substances or behaviors, and continued usage despite adverse outcomes. The habits associated with addiction offer immediate satisfaction (short-term rewards) but carry long-term detrimental effects (long-term costs).

Examples of drug (or more generally, substance) abuse include addictions to alcohol, marijuana, amphetamin, cocaine, nicotine, opioid, and eating or food addiction. Alternatively, behavioural addictions may include gambling, internet, social media, video game and sexual addiction.’’

When something is neuropsychological, it’s clear that the brain has been disrupted from its normal function. Addiction and its struggles are seen from one end of the nation to the other, every day, there are people faced with a strong pull to douse their feelings with one form of addiction to the other in search of immediate gratification from the pending issue. For something that threatens a person’s basic health and safety implies that people should run the other way but reverse is the case, people will run to alcohol and other addiction with their full defence saying they have it under control.

In the complex world of addiction, pointing fingers doesn’t solve the problem. Addiction is a multifaceted issue, and it doesn’t discriminate. Some are exposed to it early, while others make choices later in life. Blame won’t set us free, but understanding and compassion can. One of the first steps to overcoming addiction is self-awareness. It’s about acknowledging the choices we’ve made and their consequences. Whether you started young or later in life, taking responsibility is empowering.

Sobriety isn’t an overnight miracle; it’s a daily commitment to living better. It’s about knowing your limits, recognising triggers, and making choices that nurture your well-being. Prevention is crucial. Teaching young ones about self-control, resilience, and delayed gratification is a gift for their future. Let’s create a world where they are equipped to face challenges with strength and not seek solace in substances.

To those on the path to recovery, know that you’re not alone. Countless individuals have walked this road and found healing and wholeness. Reach out for support, share your struggles, and connect with those who understand. No matter where you are in your journey, there is hope. Every day is a new chance for change. Sobriety and wholeness are within reach. You are capable of reclaiming your health and life.

Addiction is a battle, but it’s a battle that can be won. Let’s replace judgment with understanding, blame with compassion, and despair with hope. Together, we can support each other on the road to recovery and healing.