Substance Abuse: A Public Health Concern

What is Substance abuse?

Substance abuse is the illicit use of drugs in a way that is detrimental or pose a risk to the user or community at large. It is also the use of illicit drugs or the abuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs for purposes other than those for which they are indicated or in a manner or in quantities other than directed (Buddy, 2011). It is global menace wrecking both social and health havoc.
Substance abuse is different from addiction. People who abuse substances can change this unhealthy behavior with counseling and proper management while addiction is like a disease, they won't be able to stop even when they know it is causing them harm.


According to NAFDAC in 2015, the commonly abused drugs in Nigeria are;

1. Stimulants; these are substances that directly act and stimulate the central nervous system. Users at the initial stage experience pleasant effect such as energy increase the major source of these comes from caffeine substance. Examples of stimulants are;

  • Caffeine which is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, soda and some energy drinks.
  • Nicotine which is a natural ingredient found in tobacco
  • Amphetamines e.g Dexodrine
  • Cocaine

2.  Hallucinogens: These are drugs that alter the sensory processing unit in the brain. Thus, producing distorted perception, feeling of anxiety and euphoria, sadness and inner joy they normally come from marijuana. Users often see images, hear sound and experience sensation that seems realistic but do not exist.examples are; Peyope, Phencyclidine

3. Sedatives; These drugs are among the most widely used and abused. This is largely due to belief that they relieve stress and anxiety and some of them induce sleep, ease tension, cause relaxation or help users to forget their problems examples are; Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines

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4. Tranquilizers: they are believed to produce calmness without bringing drowsiness, they are chiefly derived from Librium, valium.

5. Narcotics: These are drugs that relieve pains, induce sleep and they are addictive e.g Codeine, morphine, tramadol and heroine.


  1. To feel good (pleasure)
  2. To do better (energy)
  3. To keep awake
  4. To suppress fatigue
  5. Peer pressure
  6. Curiosity and experimentation


  • Lack of interest in things you used to love
  • Inability to take care of self and significant others
  • Eating less or more than normal
  • Having problem with friends and family
  • Sleeping at odd times
  • Inability to concentrate


On the user:

  1. Cancer
  2. Liver cirrhosis
  3. Neurological problems
  4. Lethargy
  5. Irritability
  6. Mental retardation
  7. On the society;
  8. Increase in crime rate
  9. Increase in the rate of Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs)
  10. Increase in the rate of divorce
  11. Decrease in life expectancy
  12. Increase in morbidity and mortality


It is a problem that not only affect the individual that abuses the drug, but also affects there loved ones and the society at large. It causes financial and health problems and can also lead to addiction. To be free from this problem, the individual may require :

  • Counseling
  • Medicine
  • Combination of both

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