Mkpuru Mmiri and the drug abuse war

For years now, combating drug abuse appears to be one of the worst challenges of the federal and state governments, with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) seemingly not winning the war against drug abuse. However, residents of the South-east appear to have found an unorthodox solution by publicly flogging sellers and users of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, popularly called Mkpuru Mmiri in the Igbo language, or crystal meth. PAUL OKAH reports.

The war against drug abuse has been on in different states across the country, championed by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), with daily record of arrests and prosecution of manufacturers, sellers and users of hard drugs.

However, the situation appears not to be getting better as drug users appear to be on the increase, with possible causes attributed to poverty, bad economy, poor family upbringing, bad relationships, among others.

While many drugs users get cured through counselling and rehabilitation, others simply remain in bondage, especially with the discovery and introduction of new drugs that will make them “get high and forget their endless sorrows”. 

Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, popularly known as Mkpuru Mmiri in Igbo land or crystal meth is a shiny blue-white, ice-block like addictive drug used by a great percentage of addicts in Nigeria, especially youths.

The drug has been in existence for years, but especially came into the attention of many Nigerians just last month, following social media outcry by South-east residents on the increasing usage and damaging effects on youths of the region.

Mkpuru Mmiri, which looks like an ice block and can be blue in colour sometimes, is reputed to be one of the hardest drug addictions to treat as there is reportedly no drug to cure the addiction, with the only treatment said to be Behavioural Therapy, which is not readily available in Nigeria for now.

However, as a result of massive outcry by parents, communities and stakeholders in Imo, Anambra,and other states, residents have adopted this unorthodox method of tying users and sellers to trees, poles and flogging them in order to combat drug abuse.

Since last week, the internet was been awash with news, pictures and videos of alleged drug addicts being flogged by youths of different communities in the South-east, with the aim of dissuading them from drug additions, which has equally elicited reactions from Nigerians condemning jungle justice.

Diverse opinions

Speaking with our reporter, a civil servant, Mr. Cyprian Obi, said there is a need for urgent intervention from the government, otherwise many young men will run mad as a result of the consumption of Mkpuru Mmiri and other drugs.

He said: “Nowhere is exempted. Come to mammy market in Abakaliki, where the dealers live and hide, male and female youths can’t stay for like three hours without Mkpuru Mmiri. My classmate, who is addicted to it, told me last week that the so called drug is a sense of knowledge, that he doesn’t get himself if he hasn’t taken it.

“The worst part of it is that soldiers in that Mammy market, Abakaliki, don’t say anything about it. They are giving those dealers free hands. Federal government should do something. This is beyond state government and local government, not to talk of community.

“Just yesterday night, I was going home from work, a car almost hit a guy who was carrying a Bible. I moved closer to check on the said guy. Behold, it was my former lodge mate and a friend too, a pastor for that matter, a motivator. We went to a corner to discuss. He told me he took Mkpuru Mmiri, that for days now he hasn’t been himself. From the look of things, I think the guy has run nuts, honestly. If something is not done about this Mkpuru Mmiri of a thing, many of our youth will be useless in the society. The street will be littered with young mad people.”

On his part, a social commentator, Mr. Theophilus Ahamefuna, advised for sensitisation by government, parents and stakeholders on the dangers of drug abuse, blaming frustration and lack of opportunities as contributory factors to drug abuse.

“Before now, it was in the North where younger guys took and abused illegal substances like Tramadol and they even sniffed Aboki shoe-gum to get high. Now, it has shifted to the East. Why won’t young people be taking hard drugs when the country is doing absolutely everything possible to frustrate them? In the real sense, 45 per cent of people taking hard drugs are lured into doing that as a result of frustration, especially to keep fit for hard works, but they lack the will to control it. I guarantee you they aren’t just running mad because of the hard drugs per se. They are running mad because of the hardship and frustration, which drove many of them into hard drugs in the first place.

“Nevertheless, the first thing is to sensitize the youths on the effects of Mkpuru Mmiri, letting them know of the damages this could cause to their body system, the dangers of it in the community and beyond. I am also suggesting that parents be informed of this dangerous substance and its adverse effects on youth, so they (parents) can help in instructing their children from home. Then after the sensitisation, the traditional rulers, community chiefs and elders should enact laws to guide the people and state penalties/ fines to be paid by a culprit. The traditional rulers and their cabinets should also appoint and authorize the appointed youths to enforce the punishment meted out: either flogging or others,” he said.

Also speaking with Blueprint Weekend, a secondary school teacher, Mrs. Rita Chukwu, said that rehabilitation of drug addicts will be of immense help, instead of flogging and other crude punishments.

She said: “Flogging someone, especially drug addicts, is not the best form of rehabilitation at all. They should be taken to rehabilitation centres, where they can be treated and cared for. How many can you flog? These are the same substances that our boys are dispensing in the Diaspora to make money and they are hailed. Finally, they brought the vice back home to dwell amongst us; and you know our people, they hardly unlearn bad things. 

“So, flogging one caught in the act may appear good to some people, but can it heal the wound permanently? I recall when marijuana came onboard in my village, just like this current Mkpuru Mmiri. Family, village, community adopted this said flogging measure to curb the act of taking marijuana among the youths found in that act, but all to no avail. And today, it is almost a normal thing, more or less legal in the society; flogging couldn’t stop and it cannot, even in the next century.”

An expert’s take 

Speaking with this reporter, the national programme officer, Drug Demand Reduction, for United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Dr. Akanidomo Ibanga, cited unemployment, poverty, economic environment, culture, among others as the major reasons for drug abuse among the youth.

“Many risk factors lead to drug abuse, including the availability of drugs in Nigeria, unemployment, poverty, economics environment, culture, among others.  Governments in different countries are doing what they can to address the situation. In recent years, government has put much effort towards curtailing drug abuse in Nigeria. Last year, the president set up a presidential advisory committee, the first of its kind, to tackle the menace. We also had the Senate President Roundtable, also the first of its kind, while 18 Northern Governors Wives also held EPT sensitisation programme. 

“All these hadn’t happened before at the government level, which gives us hope that they are doing something to address the situation. The prevalence rate of drug abuse is high in Nigeria. There is a 14.4 per cent annual use in Nigeria, whereas the global annual rate is 5.6. Therefore, counsellors have professional roles to play. From our last research, 80 per cent of high risk drug users sought for treatment, but out of this, 40 per cent could not get help for several reasons. The 40 per cent represents 150,000 people. The treatment capacity is 5,000 in a year.” 

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