Federal Government, EU and UNODC join hands in closing the drug use counselling and treatment gap.

Abuja, 22 June 2021-The Federal Ministry of Health, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union launched two important publications aimed to enhance the quality of counselling and treatment services to drug users in Nigeria: the Standard Policy and Practice Guidelines for NDLEA Counselling Centres developed in partnership with the NDLEA and the National Guidelines for the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders developed under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health. Developed with the assistance of the EU funded and UNODC implemented project: “Response to Drugs and Related Organised Crime”, these documents provide comprehensive and evidence-based approaches for treatment of substance use disorder in line with international best practices.

Substance use disorder presents a growing problem to Nigeria's already overburdened health care system. The results of 2018 National Survey on Drug Use in Nigeria revealed a drug use prevalence of 14.4 per cent among Nigerians aged between 15 and 64 years, which is almost 3 times higher than the global prevalence rate of 5.5% . The survey also found that almost 3 million persons were suffering from some form of drug use disorder and require either counselling or treatment to address their health condition. Recent polls conducted by UNODC and UNICEF ( June 2020) among 80,000 Nigerian youths, the majority felt that drug use had increased in the wake of COVID-19 related lockdowns, school-closures, and economic hardship.

In his message to the unveiling of the National Guidelines for Substance Use Disorder Treatment the Minister of Health, Dr. E. Osagi Ehanire, MD, FWACS stated: “These Guidelines will increase Nigeria's coverage and quality of effective, evidence-based and ethical treatment of substance use disorders…. and will also be useful in monitoring the quality of treatment provided by service providers across the country.” The Minister further emphasized, “The Nigerian Government is committed to implementing these Guidelines and the Federal Ministry of Health urges stakeholders to adopt and ensure implementation.”

The event also featured the launch of the “Standard Policy and Practice Guidelines for NDLEA Counsellors”. Speaking at the event, Brig. General (Rtd.) Mohamed Buba Marwa, NDLEA Chairman stressed, “The Guidelines will not only provide a uniform framework for the NDLEA counsellors and counselling centres but will also enable the Agency provide evidence-based counselling and psychosocial interventions that are at par with international standards and best practices.”

Speaking on the occasion, the UNODC Country Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Oliver Stolpe said: “One of the core objectives of the EU funded and UNODC implemented project …is to support Nigeria in closing the drug counselling and treatment gap. This includes initiatives to prevent drug use, treat drug use disorder, reduce harm of drug use to users and their families and communities, as well as to prevent drug use …” He further expressed confidence that “the Federal Ministry of Health, NDLEA and related entities will make best use of these resources for the benefit of those grappling with drug use, their families, friends and communities”.