Ice also known as methylamphetamine, has been around for years but in the past five years its use has surged as the drug gains a level of social acceptance that has caught Nigeria off-guard. The number of Nigerians using the illegal drug methamphetamine including crystal methamphetamine or ice has quadrupled over the past five years, the a Drug and Alcohol Research Centre report estimates. A new study published last week shows there are 3, 567,908 regular and dependent methamphetamine users in Nigeria.One of the study’s authors, said that five years ago the number of users was about 100,000.The author said the results were based on the number of people seeking treatment in Nigeria, and when other factors were taken into account, the data reflected a jump in the use of the drug. Researcher said the most alarming finding was that the number of users in the 15 to 25 age group has more than tripled from about 47,000 regular and dependent users five years ago to 230,000 users now. “Our concern with the 15 to 25 -year-olds is that there is a clear indication we are talking about new methamphetamine users,” he said.”The previous discussions have suggested that increasing use has been among existing users of the drug who are just using more.”But this data suggests that there is a new, young population especially in Lago and Abuja initiating methamphetamine use and developing regular and dependent use, and the harms associated with that.”
The researcher said it was the first time increases across different age groups had been quantified.”Previously we have been relying on data from the household survey, which has been very good for telling us about broad drug use trends,” he said.”But it doesn’t really focus on regular and dependent and regular use, which is where the harms are occurring.”This is the first data in Nigeria to quantify that increase and certainly suggest that what we are seeing in the household survey is underestimating regular and dependent use.” Author of the report said one of the most important aspects to take away from the survey was the opportunities for early intervention to prevent the transition into regular and dependent drug use. Drug rehabilitation services have also called for earlier intervention strategies to stop young people trying ice in the first place. A Lagos based drugs use researcher said the study showed more work was needed in Nigeria.”If we’re going to prevent the kind of crisis that we saw with marijuana and Cocaine a few years back, where we still have Nigerians who were teenagers in the 2000s still dependent on cocaine, we need to intervene earlier and I don’t think what we have now is ample,” he said.”We absolutely need more research into this in Nigeria and for government agencies to better target its services.” The kind of interventions the researcher is talking about that are needed in Nigeria are residential programs, day programs. Nigeria need a suite of strategies to be working with young people earlier. The broader issues such as youth unemployment and education needed to be part of the solution.