By Emmanuella Ekua Yawson
(Level 300 student, Ghana Institute of Journalism)
In this century of ours, people easily get addicted to one thing or the other. Addiction comes in many forms, including drugs, sex, gambling, stealing, food, pornography, computer/internet, working, spiritual obsession, shopping, fashion, and television among others.
Addiction is a bio-psychosocial disorder which is a combination of one’s genetics, neurobiology, and how that interact with psychological and social factors, according to the lead Public Health Advisor at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Maureen Boyle. However, for the purposes of what this article seeks to put across, it will focus on drug addiction and its dire consequences.
According to the Mayo Clinic, drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behaviour, and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine also are considered drugs. When you’re addicted, you may continue using the drug, despite the harm it causes.
In Ghana, there are several drugs that people tend to get addicted to, and these are marijuana, cocaine, tramadol, crystal meth, heroin, etc. Addiction at the initial stages might never be anticipated to pose any future challenges, but little do many know they would be tied to it as slaves.
To understand addicts and the lost world they find themselves in, a young (name withheld) in his last 30s was interviewed to give an account of how his drug addiction journey started.
Jimmy, as I may call the interviewee, said his addiction begun at a stage where he could not differentiate between what is good or bad, or right or wrong.
At age nine, he had already developed the habit of smoking of marijuana that has other names like Indian hemp, cannabis, wee, pot, ganja and abonsam tawa (devil’s or illegal tobacco). Jim, to my surprise, he said his father, who also was an addict, taught him how to use and smoke marijuana.
Per Jim’s story, his addiction is a heritage from father to son, since the dad smoked marijuana and traded in it as well to other users.
He said his dad usually, after smoking, hand him a piece and always urged him to use it, adding that whenever concerned neighbours questioned his father on the danger he was exposing the him (son) to, he became angry and never heeded their advice.
Although wee has been part of his life since childhood, Jim believes that it has not helped him in his adulthood. In fact, he blamed his unstable relationship on ganja usage, as every lady who comes contact with him walks away without ever returning. This includes his wife and two children who left him for good because of how he conducted himself under the influence of wee.
Although he is a qualified accountant, his employers had to lay him off from the company, because the addiction was having negative effects on his performance, and that he has always been named and shamed by friends and family members. Currently, he has lost respect among his peers and family, most of them do not even want to associate with him again.
When asked whether he is ready to seek any help or assistance, or willing to quit smoking, he answered in the affirmative. He simply said: “I am so willing and ready.” Nevertheless, he admitted that he cannot do it his own, because he has tried it many times, but it has proven futile. Even though it was not by his choice to become an addict, he wished the youth and parents take a cue from his experience to resist the temptation of smoking wee. Jim sadly said addiction has caused his to lose his job, family and social status, therefore, he reiterated the need for the youth to stay away from lifestyles that would truncate their future.
In Ghana, for instance, most addicts do not know where to get the needed assistance. Although marijuana use is considered illegal in the country, opponents on other side of the coin are of the view that it is good, hence, must be legalised.
Statistics from the Narcotics Control Board ( NACOB) indicated that about 50,000 people abuse drugs, of which 35,000 were students from junior/senior high schools and the tertiary institutions, aged between 12 and 35 years, while the remaining 15,000 were adults, with 9,000 being males and 6,000 females.
To avoid this, you need to look at life from a broad perspective or picture, and set your priorities. The truth of the matter is that drug prevention, regulation, and usage start with education and awareness creation. The education and awareness creation on drug abuse can be targeted at different levels.
There should be school-based drug addiction youth and prevention programmes, where this menace could be addressed during the early stages in pre-school. At this stage, the children will benefit from learning how to build resistance to it.
Also community-based drug addiction prevention programmes would be a helpful tool. Most communities in Ghana can play a vital role in the fight against this menace, hence, they have to make a huge impact in the prevention of drug addiction, especially among the young.
Some countries have gone further to implement policies and therapist volunteering to ensure that the youth do not indulge in this behaviour, and I believe this country can do same.