With N200 and knowing the “right” person to talk to, you can get high on something fancy in Jos, the Plateau state capital. The city where a percentage of Nigeria’s superstars were raised is fast becoming a hotbed for substance abuse — P-Square, MI, Ice Prince, Jesse Jags, Mikel Obi are among the stars who grew up in Jos. But in present-day Jos, diazepam, rohypnol, superdrol, exol 5, D5 (also known as yellow gold) and tramadol are easily available on the streets of the city.
The city boasts of an unceasing supply of the drugs for ever increasing clients. While drugs such as exol 5 and D5 are used to treat Parkinson’s disease and bipolar disorder, rohypnol is used to lessen depression caused by the abuse of stimulants. Diazepam is used to treat alcohol withdrawal and depression. However, these off-the-counter drugs make it to the streets with ease.
“Even if pharmaceutical stores have it, they don’t give it anyhow. It is based on prescription, but they have some guys that settle them. You can’t get it in a pharmacy. You might get them in the pharmacy but they don’t give it out anyhow. They have some settled guys that don’t misbehave so they give them,” Abdulkadir Hassan, a dealer, said.
“I want to show you two types — this is what they call rohypnol; this is the diazepam. This (rohypnol) is N2,000 per sachet while this (diazepam) sells for N50 (each).”
Sachets of diazepam and rohypnol sold illegally
Hassan added that marijuana is about the cheapest substance anyone could easily find in Jos. He and other dealers listed Jenta, Mangoro and Tudun Wada as places in Plateau state where marijuana is grown illegally.
During a visit to the Quintessential Healthcare Centre (QHC), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) involved in the rehabilitating victims of drug abuse, a member of staff who craved anonymity, said the numbers they have been treating for substance abuse have gone up in the past year.
Back on the streets, Cyprian, a user, said ingesting marijuana makes him “strong”.
“The advantage of weed smoking causes more problems but if you are putting it in vegetables, when you take it, you have more energy. But smoking (weed) will affect your lungs. It is your choice but some cannot stop,” he explained, noting that marijuana is easier to quit than opioids, and it was a struggle for him to quit the latter.
Kelvin, an on-air personality in one of the radio stations in Jos, said it is medicinal and good for his body.
“There is this lady I saw on Facebook, aged 115. You can hardly find somebody wey go reach up to that age, and in an interview, they asked her ‘mama, what is the secret of this your long life?’ She said the only thing that has kept her alive for so long like that is weed,” the radio host said.
A drug addict displaying marijuana
Kelvin, who was fidgeting when he started speaking suddenly became calm after he started puffing marijuana.
For another user simply identified as Muktar, leaving opioids is no longer possible. “If headache dey worry me, I no dey take medicine. I go take this thing (marijuana), go find place sleep. But na pills I wan stop. I don dey take am tey tey (long time),” he said.
Saminu Machunga, an emerging artiste in Jos better known as Smac, blamed increase of substance abuse on unemployment, adding that some junkies believe it would give them inspiration and make them stars.
“I think there is substance abuse in Jos and it is mainly caused by high unemployment rate. There are a lot of youths who don’t have jobs. From the people I have met, they say it gives them inspiration and I don’t know if they can back up those claims. People will use these things to believe that and everyone wants to be a star,” Smac said.
Calvin Taddy, another artiste better known as Storm, said a lot of youths are influenced to abuse substances because of what they see on social media. “In this part of the country, we are greatly influenced by social media, Lagos and the Western world and drugs have been sold in their content aside from fashion, violence and sex as being cool,” Storm said.
“So, just to feel like a celebrity and one who is in the entertainment circle, drugs seem to go hand in hand. However I believe it’s a cover-up for fears, inferiority complexes and insecurities. A lot of them, on the inside, don’t want to be wild given their background, but they need something that lets them say what the heck and do whatever they feel is trending.
“I know some aspiring artistes who have gone clean for a long time. They are heavily dependent on the drugs and there is still no progress with the music.”
A juvenile home for treatment of junkies and rehabilitation of young people
However, some of these users complained about being stigmatised because they had used opioids or are still using marijuana.
“I would have to take it, if not my agenda of that day will not be complete. People criticise the thing, and in the community, people believe that if you are taking it, you cannot do good,” Muktar said.
‘WE DON’T HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO REHABILITATE JUNKIES’
The Young People’s Home, a state government-owned institution under the ministry of women affairs, says it lacks the capacity to fully rehabilitate persons sent to the facility. Naomi Bature, an official at the home, said they largely survive on donations to run the institution.
She explained that allocation for food and other needs comes “maybe twice in a year”, adding that “for now, there is no food and we have been managing all this while.” Asked if the home has what it takes to rehabilitate the kids who have substance abuse problems, she said: “No, not at all. Some students from the university do come here to help us and we too counsel them. We don’t have enough beds. People come, organisations come to donate and the ministry also. But what is from the ministry is not enough.”
A CASE FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA?
Chioma James, a nurse who has worked with drug addicts, said the government could consider laws legalising marijuana for medical purposes only.
“While I would completely rule out the use of opioids for whatever reason, there is no doubt that marijuana could help some patients. There are people with sleeping and eating disorders and it has been found out that this substance helps. I think better laws when implemented would guard against abuse of it,” she said,
A cannabis control bill sponsored by Miriam Onuha, a house of representatives member from Imo state, seeks to regulate the cultivation of the substance for medical and research purposes. Although there might be some benefits of marijuana, many creatives and non-creatives in Jos have taken to the substance to ease their worries and have a good time at social gatherings. On the other hand, the relative cheap access to opioids is turning youths into junkies and they have been blamed for fuelling violence in the city.