Popular singer, Amy Winehouse was found dead in her apartment some days ago; and with a history of substance abuse, it was not hard to speculate on the cause of her death. She joins the list of many others who got too friendly with substances they rather should have kept a distance from and ended up ruining their lives.
In Nigeria, substance abuse is not as rampant. They say we are a transit nation so we are not grouped amongst countries with a drug problem. But something else as bad, which currently enjoys a legal status, threatens us and is daily wasting away many lives in our society; alcoholic drinks.
By this I don’t mean the consumption of beer, wines and other such assorted drinks. These are age old culprits I admit, but somehow their cost moderates how much of them we consume, and by implication their effect on us. I write however about the cheap, deregulated drinks indiscriminately brewed and hawked all over the streets of our country.
They come in different colours, and the mere sight of them for the un-indoctrinated could be stomach churning. Their aroma is downright repulsive. The packaging is as interesting; their manufacturers have made it even cheaper by producing in sachets. With the sachets, they can package in various sizes to meet their customers’ ability to pay. So it’s now deregulated and drinkers can now pay as they go. The others come in funny looking plastic bottles, often with the tag ‘bitter’ attached to its name. Then there are the so called roots and ‘agbo’ herbs dispensed from plastic bottles that once held water; whose speculated powers are legendry, from the treatment of fever to the enhancement of libido.
If you think however that it is only the motor part touts, the Okada riders, truck pushers, and their likes that patronise these drinks then you have to think again. I see supposedly well to do men, fellows in suites and marching ties, sit around in corners away from public view and mix shots of these concussions and drink. Perhaps the most irritating aspect of it all lies in watching the drinkers swallow their liquor. The grimace on their face as they gargle and swallow hard leaves you in no doubt as to the awful taste of the drinks and you wonder why all the trouble.
Why dwell on this? The reason is simple. With the indiscriminate sale of these drinks and their rampant abuse, we are gradually degenerating into a crisis situation, one that leaves both the individual abusers and the entire society in danger. More so, the availability of these drinks to minors portends grave dangers not only for prolonged addiction but for crime and juvenile delinquencies.
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