I never quite enjoyed marijuana. It made me appear smarter than I really was. Which was odd because marijuana was supposed to dull the senses. But how else could I have understood e=mc2 or known who killed John F Kennedy?
I know the Good Book says in all thy getting, get understanding. But once you start accepting the logic of square circles, you are on very dangerous grounds, my friend. Luckily, the other part of me – the part that abhors walking naked and collecting trash – had a more strident voice. A voice emboldened by years of chaste parenting and institutional morality. So, I didn’t quite take to marijuana.
But I smoked it a few times. Largely as an undergraduate and with friends. We smoked it out of adventure and boredom. We smoked to prove our pluck and ‘street cred.’
Plus, marijuana had always been canvassed as a less harmful option to cigarette. Lighter on the lungs, they say. ‘Natural’ too, since it is a plant.
Well, hemlock is also ‘natural,’ you dimwit.
It’s been found that smoking marijuana creates a more severe impact on the lungs. That is because smokers tend to inhale more of the smoke and hold it longer in the mouth than they do cigarette. Also, one joint gives as much exposure to cancer-producing chemicals as smoking four to five cigarettes in a row.
So much for ‘less harmful.’
I remember two instances when marijuana turned me into a zebronkey. That’s a cross between a zebra and a donkey. Something along the line of a jackass.
We had gone to Kuramo Beach for some fun, three friends and I. Back in the early 2000s, Kuramo Beach was a very jaunty place. A watering hole for both the debauched and innocent fun seekers. The gusty winds of the Atlantic added to the sense of thrill. Combine the wind with the flowers of Cannabis sativa and it was very easy to be one with nature.
We promptly got high and slept off.
When we woke up in the wee hours, we had been robbed. Phones, wallets and watches. Our wallets were in the back pockets of our trousers. It meant the pickpocket(s) probably lifted each one of us up or turned us over to take out our wallets.
They lifted us up and we didn’t wake up.
Marijuana and alcohol!
It was in the days when Nokia 3310 was sold for N40,000. So, we had been robbed twice.
As far as I can remember, to this day, we never told anyone what happened.
Oh now they know!
One other night, I had smoked a sizeable joint all by myself. The 100 billion neurones in my brain became super-charged. In the movie Limitless, remember how Bradley Cooper becomes inhumanly intelligent after ingesting NZT? That was how I felt. I suddenly had the solution to human misery. I was bodily present at the creation of the universe and could count to one sextillion on my fingers.
Very dodgy affair, you’ll agree.
That night, I could feel the safety valves of my sanity popping one after the other.
I was sleepy but scared of sleeping. I feared that if I closed my eyes and slept, I would wake up into irredeemable psychosis. I had epiphanies of me walking to Kano naked, accumulating a wealth of trash.
So, I didn’t sleep. Keeping my eyes open that night was a gruelling battle. I paced the room until morning. I recited the Shepherd Boy’s Psalm. I swore that if I survived the ordeal, I would never smoke marijuana again.
I survived it. And I never smoked it again.
I think I may have smoked it two more times after that.
But those were the last times.
But I guess I was among the lucky ones. The ones who didn’t get addicted. Who didn’t trade up to harder substances like cocaine and heroin.
I say lucky because I don’t know what would have happened if someone had introduced me to cocaine or heroin. Maybe I would have loved it. And my life would have taken a different course.
We have a drug problem on our hands, people. Our young people are sniffing petrol fume. Sniffing glue. Drinking bottles of codeine daily. Name any illicit drug in the US and you’ll find it here. Ketamine, Rohypnol (Roofies), Crystal Meth, Ecstasy, LSD.
When Small Doctor sings “awon girls ti wole pelu water bottle” (“chicks have come in with their water bottles”), he was reporting a current state of affair. Many ‘chicks’ now go about with water bottles. You’d think the bottles contained water. Nope. They contain water mixed with substances. And I don’t mean Vitamin C.
Of course, marijuana, codeine, Roofy, Tramadol and others are only ‘gateway drugs.’ Sooner or later, the ‘high’ becomes ordinary and there might be a desire for something ‘harder.’
A few weeks ago I visited CADAM (Christ Against Drug Abuse Ministry) at Epe, Lagos. It’s a rehab centre funded by The Redeemed Christian Church of God and run by the tireless Dr Dokun Adedeji (Excuse me, how do you wake up and decide to spend the rest of your life with space cadets?). Amazing work those folks are doing down there. It’s free. All you need to be accepted is your desire to quit hard drugs.
At the centre, I met people who started substance abuse from the age of nine, thirteen and their mid-teens. Young people addicted to all manner of hard drugs. I met this very bright guy who is addicted to Betadine, a pain reliever. He had been the victim of a poorly managed surgery. He was prescribed Betadine to cope with the pain. He became addicted to it. He used about ten ampoules every three days. A pack of ten ampoules costs him between N10,000 and N15,000.
There are many people who believe substance abuse is the work of ‘village thingz.’
We need to cut village people some slack. They have too many things on their minds to be monitoring you from a calabash. There is Fayose, Aregbesola and Okorocha…
It used to be that we were a transit nation for hard drugs. Now we are a user nation. While the official report was that the Crystal Meth ‘super lab’ busted by NDLEA last year in Asaba was producing the substance for export, many believe the production was for domestic consumption.
That is mad scary.
Ten years from now, we may also start seeing massive kidney and liver failures. And we don’t have the health infrastructure to cope with it.
So, what can we do?
Well, for a start, parents need to stop living in denial about their children doing drugs. They need to stop ‘keeping the problem within the family.’ The sooner they seek professional help, the easier it is to get the child off drugs.
It also doesn’t feel like a bad idea to introduce classes on substance abuse in the school curriculum. Say from junior secondary through senior secondary. It’s that serious.
People should also start learning the symptoms of substance abuse. Bloodshot eyes. Pupils larger or smaller than usual. Deterioration of physical appearance and personal grooming. Slurred speech, or impaired coordination. Maybe we might be able to spot substance abuse in its early stages.
Perhaps we also need to start talking about how to make certain OTC drugs prescription-based?
But do something we must. We have a time bomb on our hands. I hear some of these fellas are even sniffing lizard and gecko droppings!
What in the world? How did they discover that?