Insla Celebrates World Drug Day

The International Day against Drug abuse and Illicit Trafficking or World Drug Day, is marked on 26th June every year to strengthen action and cooperation in achieving a world free of drug abuse. The aim of this year’s campaign was to raise awareness about the importance of treating people who use drugs with respect and empathy; providing evidence-based, voluntary services for all; offering alternatives to punishment; prioritizing prevention; and leading with compassion. The campaign also aims to combat stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs by promoting language and attitudes that are respectful and non-judgmental.

The Institute of Leadership and Development (INSLA) in collaboration with Own Your Future Counter Drug Foundation celebrated this year’s world drug day with in Koforidua at the Koforidua Technical Institute on the 26th of June 2023. The purpose of the program was to create awareness among the students and teachers of Koforidua Technical Institute on the adverse effects associated with the use and abuse of illicit drugs/substance abuse.

The deputy principal of the Koforidua Technical School on behalf of the Principal, Ing. Bernard Forson, welcomed all dignitaries and the Non-Governmental Organizations who have partnered to have such a most important but educative program such as the celebration of the world’s drug day. He said that he is aware of how devastating some of the youth of today has turned into because of drug/substance abuse. He expressed worry on how pervasive the use of drugs/substance is seen among the youth these days. The deputy principal confessed that he can not exempt his school from the other youth in other schools involve in drugs/substance abuse. In this case, he expressed his excitement upon hearing that such program was coming to his school. He said that, he could not have done anything than to warmly welcome the idea to his school and believe that it makes huge impact in the lives of the students.

Nana Ampem Frimpomaa Manso I, the Chairperson of the program, in her acceptance speech expressed her gratitude for the honour done her. She said that looking at her background as Nkosuohene for the Effiduase Traditional area, she has it as a responsibility to ensure that subjects of Effiduase see a very positive development in their lives. She intimated that the pervasive nature of the drug being used and abused by the youth in our communities recently is alarming and worrying. The chairperson outlined major adverse implications this menace can be brought upon young users of illicit drugs being health, economic, social etc. She mentioned that this has led to students dropping out from school and later becoming a burden to the family and society at large. She claimed that considering all these problems that the use of dug/substance abuse brings to the young people in the community who are seen to be the future leaders of our community, she had no choice than to accept the position bestowed on her to chair the affairs of the program.

Mr Suleiman Yahaya, the communications Director at Institute of Leadership and Development (INSLA) passionately expressed that, in line with INSLA’s aim, they cannot sit on the fence so far as an activity throwing light on the use of illicit drugs and substance abuse is concerned. Mr. Yahaya threw light on the work of Narcotics Control Commission (NACOC) established by Act 1019 as the central coordinating body for dealing with the rising incidence of drug abuse and trafficking, having taken national, regional and global dimensions. He said that NACOC exists to implement provisions of existing legislation and International Conventions on narcotics, psychotropic substance and precursor chemicals, through enforcement and control, educative and preventive measures as well as treatment and rehabilitation of drug addict. Sadly, he expressed however that the policy objectives like Enforcement and Control; Education and Prevention, Treatment, Rehabilitation and social Re-integration, are not being implemented.

He informed audience on a study that has reported that the youth are more vulnerable to drug use. He continued that millions of people also suffer from drug use disorders, and sadly only less than one fifth have access to treatment. He highlighted on some health effects associated with the use and abuse the drug such as asthma, bowel decay, increased risk of HIV AIDS and death. He intimidated that marijuana which is not legalized in Ghana yet legal in many states has been linked to various negative outcomes as shown by various studies.

He concluded by reminding the Ghanaians that the celebration of the World Drug Day should be looked at strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol to meet the SDG target of 3.5 which seeks to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all and all ages. He therefore called on government to provide a safe haven for individuals with drug use disorders and to also identify youth champions to play a critical role to prevent substance use and promote health among their peers. He lasty called on the government to implement its Narcotics Control Commision Act 2020(Act 1019).

The Chief Executive Officer of Own Your Future Counter Drug Foundation, Mr. Osafo Benson Isaac presented to the audience the World Health Organization theme for this year, 26th June, 2023 International Day Celebration of Illicit Drug Use and Trafficking. He read as “People first: stop stigma and discrimination, strengthen prevention”. He read further that the world drug problem is a complex issue that affects millions of people worldwide. Many people who use drugs face stigma and discrimination, which can further harm their physical and mental health and prevent them from accessing the help they need. He pointed out that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recognizes the importance of taking a people-centered approach to drug policies, with a focus on human rights, compassion and evidence-based practices.

He indicated that the International Day against substance abuse and illicit trafficking or World Drug’s Day, is marked on 26th June every year to strengthen action and cooperation in achieving a world free of drug abuse. He reported that the aim of this year’s campaign is to raise awareness about the importance of treating people who use drugs with respect and empathy; providing evidence-based, voluntary services for all; offering alternatives to punishment; prioritizing prevention; and leading with compassion. He added that the campaign also aims to combat stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs by promoting language and attitudes that are respectful and non-judgmental.

The New Juaben North Municipal Chief Executive in the person of Ms. Comfort Asante commenced her keynote address by expressing worry about how pervasive the use and abuse of drugs is currently found among the youth. She said that the use and abuse of drugs/substances comes with adverse health conditions and the debilitating effects that it leaves with the user is quite devastating. She indicated that it is one of the problems facing the Municipality and that the earlier we start doing something about the menace the better it will be for the Municipality. Mrs Asante the Municipal Chief Executive highlighted on the health implications associated with the use and abuse of drugs/substances. She mentioned that use of substance/drug can cause severe damage to the person’s physical health. She continued that drug like marijuana and cocaine can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and other organs in the human body. She added that it can also cause heart, lung cancer and even respiratory failure.

With regards to the emotional damage, Ms. Comfort Asante said that the use of drugs and substances by the youth also have a significant impact on the youth’s psychological and emotional well-being. She indicated that the risk factor for anxiety and depression in drug use can lead to social isolation disruption of relationships with family, friends and peers. She completed on that by adding that drug use can lead to lack of enthusiasm in several aspects of their lives, including education.

In conclusion, Ms. Comfort Asante, the New Juaben North Municipal Chief Executive remarked that drug and substance abuse are harmful, and it is essential to create awareness among the youth and understand its devastating effects. She admonished the youth to strive always to live a healthy life and stay free from drugs and substances. She reiterated that they should reject peer pressure and keep their focus on their goals by taking their academic activities seriously.

The Chief Executive Officer of Own Your Future Counter Drug Foundation in the person of Mr Osafo Benson presented on the topic, “Developmental Stages of Psychoactive Drugs”. He claimed that he passionately picked this topic to help people to demystify the wrong perception held by a lot people that inability for most drug users to stop using drugs is “spiritual”. According to him, he sees this perception to be problematic and if we do not take the necessary care, we may not be able to use the right process for getting these users receive a better care or we may even leave them to their fate to deal with the situation by themselves. Mr. Benson continued that we may have an overwhelming increase in most youth engaging in drug use and its abuse as we see in recent times as they will come the influence users in our communities. He therefore deems it fit to let people know the stages involved for one to become an addict.

According to him, psychoactive drugs are drugs or substances that are taken to alter the mind and behavior of the user such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine etc. He said that there are four stages involve for one to become an addict and below are the stages;

  • Experimental Stage
  • Social or Recreational
  • Abusive Stage
  • Addiction stage

He explained that at the experimental stage one does not go for the drug himself but when the opportunity presents itself, he will use. He said that there are numerous reasons why people experiment with drugs but for the purpose of the program he will limit himself to a school environment. According to him, in school environment pupils and students are easily influenced by their peers mostly because they want to feel “belonging”. Students or pupils normally give their friend a wrong perception about drugs. A friend feels convinced to experiment drugs because it will enhance his learning abilities, it will enhance his sexual performance, will make the person strong etc. The friend in the end adduced to taking the drug to satisfy his or her curiosity or please some friends. At this stage, no pattern of use is developed and sometimes there are no negative consequences. He added that drug is limited to few exposures.

Social or Recreational Stage puts the person in a position where the individual will seek for the drug himself. In this type of use, the individual seeks out the drug.  The user wants a certain effect from the drug. However, there is no a certain pattern of use. The use of the drug is always at parties or festivities. Drug use is sporadic or occasional and has an impact on the user’s life or health.

At this point of abusing the drug, the user is aware of the negative medical consequences but goes ahead to use the said drug. Examples are using; Amphetamine or caffeine when the person is having High Blood Pressure as a health condition, Taking in Alcohol having Diabetic, Cigarette when suffering Asthma etc. If the use goes on regardless of negative medical consequences, relationships, finance, legal implication or emotional well-being, that is abuse.

With the Addiction stage, the user becomes dependent on the drug/substance. The user develops psychological dependency and physiological dependency, according Mr. Benson. He explained that the Physiological dependency is some strange sickness the user begins to develop for withdrawing from the drugs. He gave examples of these sicknesses as headache, itching, vomiting etc. He said that this is the point that the person can not stop using the drug because the person will periodically need the drug to fuel his addiction. In view of this, Mr. Benson advice the students not to even experiment psychoactive drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroine etc. However, he listed Behavioral and Pharmacology to be the two ways of treating an addict.

The Education Director in the person of  Ms. Bervely Dansowaa Batels took time to advice the students to desist from using drugs/substances. She shared experience with the students on how those that she has thought them in the past and were doing drugs lives have been very devastating if you see them today. She urges the students to always remind themselves of the very reason why they are in school so that they stay focused always on their studies to becoming a better person in future. She said that reminding yourself all the time of the reason why you are in school will help them to rise above all obstacles that might come their ways. She advised that student should be able to reject bad friends to avoid bad influence on their lives. She asked them to put their minds on the various job opportunity that we have in the country that they might grow up to do to earn something good for themselves, their family and becoming an important personality who will contribute meaningfully to the growth and development of the country.