Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has attributed the prevalence of substance abuse to the insufficient mental health practitioners in Nigeria, disclosing that currently Nigeria has one psychiatrist for every 1.6 million persons.
He further revealed that Senate is preparing a legislative framework that recognises the low number of mental health practitioners in the country, and works to rectify that problem by ensuring that quality mental health and substance abuse services are available for this underserved segment of the population.
Saraki, disclosed this in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, to commend the BBC Africa’s “Africa Eye” documentary: “Sweet Sweet Codeine,” which detailed the widespread prevalence of drug and substance abuse in Nigeria. He stated that documentaries like “Sweet Sweet Codeine” are real-life attestations on the need for Nigeria to take its drug abuse problem more seriously.
Saraki was quoted to have said: “The widespread nature of this substance abuse problem in Nigeria is why the Senate convened the stakeholder Roundtable in Kano in December.
“Even though I have been working on this issue for a few months now, watching the BBC documentary was another eye-opener. Nigerians can now see that if care is not taken, we could be sitting on a catastrophe. We cannot all just fold our arms and expect this issue to fi x itself. This is everybody’s problem.
“As things stand, following the Roundtable on Drug Abuse that held in Kano in December 2017, we have already developed a draft Legislative framework for the control of narcotics and psychotropic substances and the provision of mental health and substance abuse services in Nigeria.
“With the Drug Control Bill that we are set to introduce, the mandate of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) and other relevant law enforcement and other regulatory bodies will be strengthened to eradicate the illicit production, and trafficking of controlled substances.
“The Mental Health Bill will ensure the availability of mental health and substance abuse services in every state, as well as guarantee the enforcement of minimum standards of care for people with mental health disorders. “
This is because, we cannot continue like this. We cannot continue to have one psychiatrist for every 1.6million Nigerians and expect this substance abuse problem to go away.”
It could be recalled that the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, earlier directed the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), to ban with immediate effect further issuance of permits for the importation of codeine, an active pharmaceutical ingredient for cough preparations.