Emmanuel Aremu*, a 300 level Nigerian undergraduate who is a student of English language at the University of Ilorin, also works part-time as a freelance writer. Due to his work, he is sometimes required to submit up to 30,000 words to his clients within a three-day duration. Sometimes, he is required to read up to 20 literature texts for his school courses. All of these require that he stay awake for an extended period of time.
Emmanuel used to stay awake by drinking coffee but as time passed, he realized that coffee had fallen short because his body has become acclimated to it, and could no longer keep him up like it used to, so he took to something stronger, a recommendation by a friend.
“I got the advice to start taking drugs from a friend who is into music. He prefers to be creative with his songs but not creative enough, so he opted for drugs to induce his creativity.” Emmanuel told me.
Emmanuel used coffee as his go-to substance each time he needed to stay awake to beat deadlines because of the presence of caffeine. “The caffeine in the coffee really helps in keeping me awake and makes me work effectively”, he told me.
Substance misuse refers to the dangerous or unsafe use of psychoactive substances, such as alcohol and illegal drugs, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It has now become a big public health issue around the world, and a concerning endemic among young people in Nigeria.
According to a study published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2019, an estimated 271 million people, or 5.5% of the global population aged 15–64, used drugs in the previous year, with 35 million people suffering from substance use disorders.
A documentary conducted by BBC in 2018 revealed that a large number of youths in Nigeria are dependent on codeine syrup – a medication that has become notorious among people of all social strata. The government gauges that up to 3 million containers of the habit-forming syrup are consumed consistently in only two northern states. And if taken in excess, it can cause psychosis and organ failure.
People usually take hard substances for a variety of reasons. For others, it is a way to escape reality; for Emmanuel, he takes Molly to gain strength, to read and write. Molly is a road name for MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), a mainstream rave illegal drug utilized at dance clubs and live concerts to modify mood and perception.
Emmanuel gets this drug from a dealer for 25,000 naira(60.75USD) who is a student of Kwara State University, Ilorin who he considered as unreliable due to the fact that the dealer is also an addict. Even though word on the streets about dealers indicate otherwise— they do not get high on their own supply.
“I might look into sourcing for other dealers so I won’t be disappointed as much as my present dealer disappoints” he mentioned.
The first time Emmanuel tried Molly, it collided with the coffee he used to take. He felt bland, exhausted, and restless. This occurred due to the fact that his body was struggling to break free from the coffee he had been drinking. He became even more concentrated on the second day, saw through people’s eyes and saw what others could not see.
“The first time I tried Molly, my body reacted to the change because I am known to be taking coffee and the reaction was as a result of the fact that my body was trying to break free from the coffee I’ve been drinking”, he narrated.
Emmanuel became drowsy in the evening after he was able to read with narcotics. He regained his sluggishness. Despite the side effects, he was pleased that the substance he had taken was able to provide him with the desired outcome. He was able to read for a whole day.
The drug raised his anxiety because he was worried, and with anxiety came fear, and with fear came strength, and with strength came concentration. He started with four days a week, then increased to four times a day.
Ademola, a student of the University of Lagos who is also an artist that is based in Lagos takes hard substances for just a search for adventure because he believes creativity is unaffected by marijuana use. “The substance has no effect on one’s repertoire,” he said.
Unlike Emmanuel who takes Molly to beat deadlines, Ademola first started taking Marijuana just for the fun of it and for what he described as “trying new stuff”
“Marijuana helps me let loose, connect to others, and dance all night but it does not add to my creativity” Ademola stated
A study which was conducted at the University of Lagos in Nigeria with the aid of the WHO student drug survey proforma shows that 266 students were actually abusing drugs, with caffeine being the most widely used drug by 43.1 percent of the population, followed by alcohol (25.8 percent) and marijuana (7.4 percent).
If Ademola does not smoke as a result of not being able to get marijuana on a particular day, he becomes as fit as a fiddle; his cravings are strongest in the first few days of abstinence (days 1-3), but they fade after day 5, and after seven days, he can go as long as he wants. According to him, his abstinence is always a result of his location and him being unable to get hard substances at that particular location.
Mental health and hard substances
Dr Oyeleke, a resident doctor at the Department of Psychiatry, of the University college hospital, Ibadan, revealed that addiction is both a neurological and psychological problem and in most cases addiction sets in when they cannot do without getting those substances. “Addiction sets in when the reception in the brain is stimulated” she explained.
She added that cannabis for example has this euphoric effect where you feel on top of the world, time is fast, everything seems fast, excess energy surfaces at the time they take the substance. “Anything they want to do, they seem to be able to do it better,” she said. “We had a patient who claimed he made noodles in about 2 minutes and that is because everything seemed very fast to him”
Even after using drugs, certain people see things in completely different ways. People’s faces grow so large that they become enraged and want to knock others down. For Emmanuel, the situation is different. Emmanuel began to see images of the word he wishes to paint. “Words were images for me to see,” he said. “It is more like watching a movie and you are able to recall memories from the film.”
Emmanuel was able to write things down as a result of the words being images while he was reading, and he was able to recall information due to the pictures he had tagged with those words.
The academic and financial effect
Hard substance usage has a negative impact on your productivity and academic progress. It has always had a detrimental effect on the overall aspect of humanity, according to Wasiu Shekoni, a business development manager in Lagos.
Emmanuel spends at least 25,000 Naira (60.75USD) per month, while there are cheaper solutions for 5000 Naira,(12.15USD), but this is not encouraged as it won’t be as effective and less dangerous as the expensive one. he stated, “The less expensive anything is, the more lethal it is.” His suppliers are KWASU students who are addicted and are not reliable, so he’ll have to locate more as time passes. Ademola’s monthly budget for a bag of loud (marijuana) at Akala in Ibadan is 18,000 naira(43.74USD). According to him, the price is fixed.
Shekoni indicated that a student who is addicted to these harsh narcotics and cannot assimilate without them will perform poorly since all he will be thinking about is how to earn money to buy his drugs.
“In a kind of situation where the person has a pocket money of 10,000 Naira (24.30USD) per month and he consumes hard substances, such person will find it hard to manage the sum in a week,” he told me “in such way, it affects the student’s performance, whereby without the hard substances, the person cannot assimilate and if you cannot assimilate, your performance drops which will lead such person to other vices in the society.”
Emmanuel disclosed to me that he had been battling depression and had tried suicide during the period I was conversing with him. He explained that this is due to the fact that his grades are not as excellent as he had hoped and that he has no choice but to continue working as a freelancer in order to pay his school fees. Last year, Emmanuel committed suicide.
The narrative of Emmanuel can be linked to the work culture in Nigeria, where freelancers are underpaid by those who outsource their jobs to them, and they are nevertheless expected to do the work within a tight deadline. Many other people, like Emmanuel, would have to battle to make deadlines by taking narcotics to keep them awake and give them the strength to complete the demanding task.