Stories of Hope: Responding to the Drug Use Epidemic in Nigeria: Series 3

How Etim Reunited with His Family

Abuja, March 19, 2021-Etim is a student from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria who started using cannabis while in school because he wanted to fit in with his peers. Over time his consumption became more and more frequent eventually turning into a full-fledged drug use disorder. To fund his habit, he stole from his family and was consequently asked to leave the family home. His cannabis consumption disrupted his school life leading him to move from one school to another. Alienated from his family, Etim eventually ran away from home, moving to another town to start a new life. “My father used to beat me mercilessly. I felt hated by my own family. My father kept telling me I would die” said Etim.

However, Etim did not lose his life, thanks to the intervention of his sister, who is also a health worker. Mrs. Daniel took him on a new pathway to recovery. She recalls: “We stigmatized him to the extent that he was no longer comfortable with us. Sometimes, he would come to the house, steal my father's ATM card, withdraw over N300,000 and disappear for about three months. We wished that he stayed away forever” said Mrs. Daniel.

Mrs. Daniel attended a two-day sensitization training workshop on Drug Prevention, Treatment and Care (DPTC) organized by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with Mobile Manna Foundation (MMF) in Uyo. MMF is a civil society organization supported by the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) within the framework of the European Union Project: “Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime in Nigeria” which has been assisting since 2012 the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Ministry of Education, the Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigeria Police Force, the Federal High Court, the National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control as well as dozens of drug treatment, prevention, and care providers.

The training was an eye-opener for Mrs. Daniel who developed a new perspective of her brother’s challenge. During the workshop, Mrs. Daniel was exposed to new information about various substances commonly used, and their short and long-term effects. A session that strongly resonated with Mrs. Daniel focused on improving relationships with those affected by drug dependency, and the adverse consequences of stigmatization among drug users.

After the training, she felt compelled to offer love instead of the usual rejection to Etim and other drug users. She later convinced family members not to see their brother as a threat, but as humans who deserved to be loved and cared for. The family proposed a drug rehabilitation option, and Etim agreed.

Etim is much relieved, that he now has a supportive family. This new rapport led him to report to MMF to receive the first step towards treatment by accessing counseling. Despite the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic that made it difficult for him to access treatment, he is determined to resume therapy when normalcy returns. “I am willing to get help because I do not like the way my life is. I don't want this to continue” said Etim.