The study sought to ascertain the knowledge base of the public regarding ways of curbing the use of illicit drugs by adolescents. The knowledge base of the public, if ascertained, might be instrumental in informing policies and intervention strategies for curbing adolescents’ illicit drug use. The larger society is also adversely affected by the increase in drug use by adolescents. It is therefore imperative that the public plays active roles in identifying strategies that are put in place to curb adolescent drug use. This study identified public perception of strategies for curbing adolescents’ illicit drug use. In order for this to work, what they know about the subject matter needs to be documented.
The study found that the respondents believe that the use of drugs by adolescents can be controlled through the following means: firstly, stringent anti-illicit drugs consumption laws and bodies should be established, these bodies will monitor the distribution of drugs that are usually abused. Secondly, before selling drugs to adolescents, identification cards and doctor prescriptions should be demanded from these adolescent. Thirdly, the young people should be educated on the dangers of illicit drug use. Thirdly, young people should be restricted from having access to illicit drugs. Fourthly, for the adolescents who are already addicted, rehabilitation programmes should organized. Ensuring that communities have their own structures that will enforce these can go a long way in curbing this problem, one community at a time (12).
However, there are likely constraints in enforcing the suggested strategies. They include the following: that adolescents have grown comfortable with drugs as a quick fix; they depend on these drugs to distract them from their problems and to feel high (13); there is the issue of peer pressure as adolescents are perceived to be easily influenced by their peers to try anything. Furthermore, amongst the points listed by National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) as ways to assess the level of risk in a community, was the need to assess community awareness of the problem (12). In the current study, respondents are aware of efforts that have been made to sensitize the adolescents on the dangers of illicit drug use. The sensitization efforts they are aware of, take the following forms: didactic drama and plays, outreach and outdoor campaigns, efforts by religious organizations and health education. This finding is in line with reports by NIDA (12) and Bah, (14).
The study also sought to identify the likely strategies for curbing drug use among adolescents in Owerri metropolis. According to the result, the provision of employment opportunities for youths would reduce adolescents’ drug abuse. Other strategies are proper funding of drug enforcement agencies, strict border control to check drug trafficking, sensitization campaigns, strict laws on drug prescription, purchase and use and health education. This finding is consistent with findings reported by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) (15) which also noted that the phenomenon of drug abuse requires societies to dedicate resources to evidence-based prevention, education and interventions, including treatment and rehabilitation. This is particularly crucial as research findings clearly show that investment in treatment is cost-effective compared with the cost of untreated and continuing abuse. Research conducted in the United States of America reveals that every $1 invested in treatment yields a return of between $4 and $12 in reduced crime and health-care costs (15). Thus, with regards to the design and implementation of rehabilitation programmes (for the already affected), legislations should be made and appropriate funding put in place with the aim of making all of this a success. That is if the influence of corruption has been diminished.
Raising awareness remains instrumental in eliminating drug use among adolescents and even more instrumental are awareness programmes done with the aim of preventing illicit drug use instead of curing it. Such interventions should be targeted towards primary school pupils because they are still malleable and can easily be discouraged from consuming these drugs. A curriculum should be developed that encourages these to be taught at all levels of the education system (from primary, through to the university) and seasonal community awareness for the out-of-school. This corresponds to the findings of Mamman (5) and Fareo (7). They found public awareness campaign, liaison between research and non-governmental organization, designing curricula on drug education, establishing counselling centres for drug control and intensification of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) campaigns on anti-drugs as strategies for curbing drug use.
In a report by NIDA (12), in order to get a community to implement research-based prevention programmes, firstly, there should be individual and small group meetings with the aim of attracting support from those with great influence in the community. Secondly, it may be imperative to create a community board comprising of a coalition of key leaders from public- and private-sector organizations. This coalition, according to the report, will hold community wide meetings, create and possibly implement public education campaigns, attract sponsors for a comprehensive drug abuse prevention strategy while also presenting data that will support the need for a research-based prevention programme. However, in the communities of study, there are no coalitions of any sort, with a focus on curbing adolescent drug use or illicit drug use of any kind in the communities involved in this study. Neither are there any reported small group meetings with that attracts support from those with great influence in the communities specifically for illicit drug use menace. With this much disinterest in the communities, it will greatly affect any strategies employed. Therefore, the primary focus of any strategy or intervention by any institution should first seek to build community interest and involvement before anything else (12).