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Drug abuse and NDLEA’s teletherapy, By Akwu Philemon

One of the great news in recent times in Nigeria was the commissioning of a drug abuse call centre by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA. The call centre―which operates 24/7 and is toll-free―is a milestone in the effort to broaden access to quality healthcare for drug users in the country. Given the alarming drug use prevalence in Nigeria, such an initiative has become a necessity and, to all intents and purposes, strategic intervention and a determined effort to bring under control the increasing cases of drug use disorder and related health concerns.

I recall that the Chairman of the NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (retd), had, at the commissioning of the call centre, avowed that those suffering from Drug Use Disorder no longer have any excuse not to seek treatment. Indeed, he was right.

The significance of the call centre cannot be overemphasized. Many families cannot afford the cost of treatment for their members; and others who can afford it, are restrained by society’s stigmatisation of known drug users and discrimination that comes after rehabilitation. 

Now, the new NDLEA call centre―launched on June 30, 2022―has changed those dynamics. 

First, it has provided a safe space for those who need to be treated for their dependence on drugs by protecting their identities. Anyone can make the call from home and commence the process of teletherapy that will end in proper treatment and rehabilitation, away from the public’s eye. There, their anonymity is assured.

Secondly, a phone call now brings callers in contact with all the specialists―psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, counsellors, and medical doctors―that can help to bring them back to a normal life free of drug abuse.

It is thoughtful of the agency to simplify the service to include all the major languages, alongside pidgin and English, thereby making accessibility very simple. This is an opportunity that Nigerians should avail themselves of.

Previously, many a family has been greatly traumatised by the inability to treat their drug-dependent members. Now, as the NDLEA chairman said, there is no plausible excuse for anyone affected not to seek help.

The NDLEA Call centre is a positive development that will no doubt boost the effort to curb Nigeria’s drug addiction problem. Affected individuals and families who fail to utilise this opportunity will be doing themselves and society a great disservice.

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