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Addiction Is A Brain Disease: How South-East Can End “Mkpurumiri” Scourge – Medical Director

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A neuropsychiatric expert, Prof. Monday Igwe, has urged South-East leaders to revive community values in order to stem the rising wave of hard drug use and drug abuse within the zone.

There has been a noticeable increase in the number of youths engaging in drug abuse, especially use of crystal methamphetamine, locally known as “Mkpurumiri”.

Igwe, who is also the Medical Director of Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, said in Enugu that the church and other institutions of socialisation were very important in the prevention of addictive behaviour.

According to him, prevention of substance use disorders requires a multi-sectorial approach with interventions across lifespan.

He said: “Addiction is a brain disease and preservation of the brain early in life is a necessary step. Quality obstetric and neonatal care is the bedrock of health neural development.

“Strengthening family and community values and resources, good neighbourhood with community cohesion, the church and other institutions of socialisation are very important in the prevention of addictive behaviours.

“Law enforcement must be balanced with a public health approach to substance use problems to achieve the desired results. Emphasis on drug supply reduction without addressing drug demands through evidence-based treatment approaches may be counterproductive”.

The don noted that some hard drugs were popular within communities because of its availability and low cost, adding “all mental health-related issues are treatable”.

“Persons having drug-related problems require humane medical attention at various levels.

“Various levels of care ranging from counselling to motivational interviewing and to in-patient care depending on the degree of use; and other medical and mental health co-occurring conditions,” he said.

Igwe noted that punitive measures, wrongly applied in treating mental health-related illnesses, were often based on the moral theory of addiction which emphasise that people having problems with psychoactive substances brought it upon themselves and should not be treated.

“Those who hold this view tend to use punishment as a deterrent. However, it is known that substance use disorder is a disease with recognisable signs and symptoms that has evidence-based treatments that are cost-effective.

“Treatment of persons with drug use problems has several advantages. One example is that a treated drug user is less likely to recruit another person and this reduces criminality associated with the use of drugs.

“The use of punitive measures is successful only when it is targeted at the drug producers and dealers but not users as the current approach on the drug war focuses only on supply reduction which drives increase in demand.

“To achieve the much needed supply and demand reduction, punitive measures should be targeted only at the drug producers and distributors and this should be coupled with the treatment of drug users,” he said.

The don also said that as part of multi-sectorial approach to curbing the menace, there was a need to address indices of social disadvantage or exclusion such as poverty and unemployment.

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