By Helena Selby
The abuse of drugs is one of the most popular social vices among the youth today. The fight against the use of drugs, and especially drug addiction, has become the priority of many world leaders. Even though drug abuse and addiction is an unfortunate situation that is taking the better part of the youth nowadays, the number of youth engaged in it increases every day.
In Ghana the abuse of drugs among the youth is no more news in the various communities, as many drug users do not care about the stigma associated with it. Unlike in the past, where by users hide themselves when using the substances, things seem to have changed, as some hide themselves others smoke it in the public, especially, in places of excessive fun.
The terrible thing about drug abuse, which really drags down the progress of the nation so far, has been the period whereby the user loses his or her state of mind. The use of substances such as marijuana mostly land users in mental institutions, and considering the present condition of Ghana’s mental hospitals, and the number of users increasing by the day, what will then be the future of the economy, as the government will have to sacrifice and pump some of its scarce resources into taking care of them. The use of marijuana in Ghana has become one of the main causes of mental illness among the youth today, as some end up in psychiatric hospitals, while others find themselves on the streets and in prayer camps.
Use of marijuana in Ghana
In Ghana, the most substance abused is marijuana (indian hemp or wee) which is the cheapest drug and packaged at Gp50 per piece, which is very affordable. The use of heroin and cocaine is not very popular among substance abusers in Ghana, due to their high cost. According to the 2007 World Drug Report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 21.5% of Ghanaians, aged from 15 to 64, smoked marijuana or used another cannabis product in 2006. The report continues that Ghanaians use marijuana more than five times the world average, which, as a result, has made Ghana the leader of African countries and third in the world in cannabis or marijuana.
The report further indicates that Ghana ranks third in the world on marijuana use, behind Papua New Guinea and Micronesia with 29 per cent each. If Ghana was the leading in country in the usage of marijuana in Africa and the third in the world, as of 2007, then one will not be surprised if it rises up to be the first in the world, considering the rate at which the youth indulge in the substance every day.
Gone were the days when Rastafarians were the most popular users of marijuana, but things have changed now. The culprits are mostly youth who migrate from rural to urban areas for greener pastures, as many of these youth during their stay in the various cities get themselves involved in substance smoking. Many students in the senior high schools and at the tertiary level are as well culprits of marijuana usage. The fact of the issue is that youth from both rich and poor homes get themselves into this mess due to peer pressure.
Marijuana smoking places in Accra
At Agbogbloshie, a suburb of Accra, where electronic waste are burnt, many of the youth, coming from the northern part of Ghana, smoke marijuana while burning the electronic waste, and the funny aspect is that when one piece is lighted, it is transferred from one person to another till it is finished. Sometimes, they go to the extent of fighting over one lighted piece with the explanation that one is taking too long to transfer it to another.
The surprising thing is they are not bothered about the level of heat produced by the burning electronic waste, but go ahead and smoke, no wonder they often complain of feeling excessive heat in their heads.
At Tudu, also a suburb Accra, which is a well known vicinity of substance abuse in Accra, marijuana, which is popularly known as “taaba, ntampi or ganja,” is sold at wholesaler to retailers in the various communities outside Tudu. The popularity of the place and the rate at which social vices occur there compelled the police to raid there in the late part of April 2011, to arrest many substance abusers, since it is illegal. Surprisingly, many of these substance users who were arrested and put before court in at the long run might be given just about three years jail sentence.
Marijuana use and health
According to Buddy T of about.com guide, when marijuana is smoked, it begins to affect the users almost immediately, and can last for one to three hours. When it is eaten in food, such as baked in brownies and cookies, the effects take longer to begin, but usually last longer. Sometimes, marijuana use can also produce anxiety, fear, distrust, or panic.
The active ingredient in marijuana, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, acts on cannabinoid receptors on nerve cells and influences the activity of those cells. Some brain areas have many cannabinoid receptors, but other areas of the brain have few or none at all. Many cannabinoid receptors are found in the parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thought, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.
When high doses of marijuana are used, usually, when eaten in food rather than smoked, users can experience symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, impaired memory and disorientation.
Within a few minutes after smoking marijuana, the heart begins beating more rapidly, and the blood pressure drops. Marijuana can cause the heart beat to increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute, and can increase even more, if other drugs are used at the same time.
Because of the lower blood pressure and higher heart rate, researchers found that users’ risk for a heart attack is four times higher within the first hour after smoking marijuana, compared to their general risk of heart attack when not smoking.
Smoking marijuana, even infrequently, can cause burning and stinging of the mouth and throat, and cause heavy coughing. Scientists have found that regular marijuana smokers can experience the same respiratory problems as tobacco smokers do, including daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illnesses, increased risk of lung infections and obstructed airways.
The smoking of marijuana can as well adversely affect the immune system which will make it very difficult for the individual system to fight against various diseases. Smoking marijuana regularly (a joint a day) can damage the cells in the bronchial passages which protect the body against inhaled microorganisms, and decrease the ability of the immune cells in the lungs to fight off fungi, bacteria, and tumor cells.
For patients with already weakened immune systems, this means an increase in the possibility of dangerous pulmonary infections, including pneumonia, which often proves fatal in AIDS patients. As the use of marijuana does not only affect the brain, but the other parts of the body, especially, the immune system, the government, in this case, must be prepared to risk some part of the nation’s money on the treatment of substance addicts if it does not work hard to control and eradicate the activities of marijuana or substance addiction in the country.