Weed (Marijuana) Abuse in Nigeria

Key words: Weed abuse, Marijuana, SK, Nigeria, mental illness.


Weed (Marijuana) Abuse in Nigeria. What is weed? Why is weed popularly abused in Nigeria? Does weed (Marijuana) cause mental illness?

Weed or Marijuana, with the botanical name of cannabis, is a very common drug of abuse in Nigeria. Cannabis, is know with different names in Nigeria, such as weed, ghanja, igbo, kaya, wee-wee, oja, gbana, blau, kpoli, and abana. It is also known as choko, yoyo, skunk, green leaf, grass, Indian hemp. Some also know it as blaze, taba, ndedeko, bendel market, joint, pot, and genye.

Cannabis is an illegal drug and the highest substance of abuse in Nigeria. Meaning that its production and distribution is illegal. It is widely grown in the southern part of Nigeria, for its consumption. The parts of Nigeria with the most production of cannabis are Edo, Ekiti, Delta, Ondo, Osun, Ogun and Oyo.  Cannabis users are seen as social deviants and are at risk of arrest.

What is Weed or Cannabis?

Cannabis Sativa, natural occurring pure form:

The plant:

Cannabis Sativa, is a plant with different parts. The flower, the leaves, buds, oil. The buds and the leaves contain much of the active ingredient of cannabis which is delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or▲9THC.

Weed or igbo is prepared from the dried flowers and the leaves coming from the top of the stem. The flowers have the highest content of ▲9THC, followed by the leaves close to the flowers. And the leaves closer to the end of the stem, contain less ▲9THC.

Method of usage:

Cannabis is taken into the body via smoking it, inhalation, and orally by eating or drinking it in.  It can be cooked with food or drank in the form of tea.  In Nigeria it can be used to cook soups, stews jallof rice and even pasteries, such as cakes, pies, etc. It is also used to make incense.

Cannabis when smoked:

It is hand rolled to look like a cigarette. And can also be smoked through a pipe. A water pipe called a bong, are used for the inhalation of cannabis. The water in the bong, helps cool the hot smoke coming from the cannabis, thus making its inhalation easy. Having taken in the smoke from either the rolled form or from the bong, the user holds his breath for a few seconds. This is to ensure maximum entry of the ▲9THC, into the lungs. Up to 20% to 70% of the THC is absorbed via smoking.

When smoked the active ingredient is absorbed from the lungs into the blood stream, within minutes. Then it goes to the liver for some actions to take place.  The peak of its action is within 10 to 18 minutes of intake and within 1 hour, the effects starts decreasing. By 3 hours it is mostly over.

When eaten:

Or ingested orally, it takes 1-3 hours for the ▲9THC to get into the blood and start its action. The duration of the effects is up to 4 to 6 hours. And the effect is much less than when it is smoked.

In the system:

The substance, cannabis, can be detected in the body long after its use. THC can be seen in the urine, up to 30 days after use, in heavy users. It can be detected in the blood and saliva, almost immediately after use. It can also be detected from the hair up to 3 months after use.

Synthetic and mixed forms of cannabis.

There is the synthetic version of cannabis, now in Nigeria. A manmade chemicals sprayed on certain herbs and wrapped on colorful wrappers. It mimics the effects of the natural occurring cannabis, but more potent. In Nigeria, it can be found with any of these names, Colorado, black mamba, lamba, happy boy, or Scooby snax. One bag of this can be bought at the cost of N2,000 to N 10,000.

Then there is the form of natural cannabis mixed with cocaine. The name as can be found in Nigeria is SK or skunk. It is more expensive than the cannabis alone.

Weed (Marijuana) abuse, why the abuse in Nigeria.

Cannabis is the most common substance of abuse in Nigeria, and the reasons of this are many.

Ease of availability:

It is easily available on the streets. And it is also affordable. The monthly amount spent by users is about N363, as at 2018. But for heavy users, they can spend up to N1,340 in a day.

Some young people in Nigeria offer cannabis to their guests as a form of hospitality. And it is used in parties and bars.

Used as a means of fostering peer group acceptance, enjoyment with friend, pleasure seeking and leisure. It helps to seek out new friends and consolidate existing ones.

Perceived functions:

Some young men believe that it helps them show their masculinity. And boost confidence.

It arouses sexual desires, pleasure and performance for commercial sex workers.

For long distance truck and commercial drivers it gives sustenance power. It also gives substance power to those who push trucks, mason workers, etc.

Musicians and writers believe that it gives them ability to compose. That it also helps to motivate them to perform better.

To relieve stress:

Other reasons for use include poverty, unemployment, deprivation and displacement due to insurgency. About 40% of the Nigerian population lives in poverty and 82 million Nigerians live on less than $1 a day. As at 2020, 33% of Nigerian at working age, were unemployed.

Parental pressure to achieve is another reason for the abuse.  So some young people use it as a form of rebellion. Also those from dysfunctional home, abuse cannabis. And in Nigeria, coming from a polygamous home is a predisposing factor.

To self medicate:

Used to self medicate mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorder, etc. For some it improves their mood and gives them happiness. Those who abuse stimulants like methamphetamine (ICE) or cocaine use cannabis to induce sleep.

How common is weed abuse in Nigeria.

Weed or cannabis is the highest substance of abuse among young people between the ages of 25 and 39 years.

As at 2008, the percentage of those who abuse cannabis in the northern part of Nigeria was 9.4%. While in Lagos state those who have ever used cannabis in 2016 was 4.4%. And Abakiliki, the eastern part of Nigeria, in 2016, was 5.2%. In Rivers state, 26% of secondary school students abuse cannabis, in a study.

In a recent survey of 2020, 7.5% of students abuse cannabis in Nigeria. And among those of ages between 15 years and 64 years, 6.6% had ever used cannabis. And according to the survey of UNODC, 10.8% of adult population in Nigerians had abused cannabis in 2018. This translates to about 10.6 million of the adult population in Nigeria.

For long distance commercial drivers in Ondo state, 8.6% of them abuse cannabis habitually. But 2.2% of long distance drivers in Ondo, only take cannabis just before the journey.

The use of cannabis is higher among men than women by 7 times. And the average age of starting the use of cannabis in Nigeria is 19 years.

What cannabis or weed does to the brain.

Cannabis makes the brain cells die off quickly. The regular use of cannabis from the adolescent age, affects the connectivity of the brain neurons. It also causes reduced brain volumes at certain parts of the brain. Like in the areas required for thinking, decision making, judgment, planning, learning, and impulse control. The hippocampus, involved in memory and learning, is also adversely affected. The gray matters in the brain are reduced in volume in certain parts. This is especially in areas involved in emotions, like the amygdala.

Neurotransmitters in the brain are also negatively affected. These include glutamate, Gamma aminobutyric acid, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, etc. Cannabis affects the balance of these neurotransmitters.

Cannabis generally takes over the brain so that things that had previously given the user pleasure can no more do so. So the pleasure can only now be elicited by cannabis.

Intoxicating effects of weed or cannabis.                                                                                       

There are many factors that can affect how a cannabis user will react or behave after the taking it. So the way one person reacts, will differ from how another person will react.

These factors include the dose of cannabis, the environment it is taken, and the past experiences with the substance. Even the expectations of the drug user, will also come into play. This means that what the user wants it to do, it will do.

Immediately on taking the substance, it gives one a bodily tingling sensation, dizziness and light headedness. Then the user feels happy or has euphoria, gets calm and may become disconnected with everything around him. He may talk incoherently and excessively, and then fall asleep.

For some people who use cannabis, they report having visual and auditory hallucinations. And time seems to pass very fast.

The users of cannabis are unable to inhibit certain actions, and this can get them into trouble. They lack the patience for long tasks, like mental arithmetic. They are unable to concentrate and remember things.

Cannabis increases appetite and libido. The eyes become blood shot, heart rate increases and the mouth becomes dry. So the person will immediately drink a lot of water.

Colours seem brighter, arts and music become more appreciated. They become more creative and think more abstractly.

Does cannabis or weed cause mental illness?

This question has elicited a lot of controversial responses all over the world. Some scientists believe that it does not predispose to mental illness. But others have a strong conviction that the use and abuse of cannabis is a risk factor to the development of mental illness.

Impact on the brain:

It is a well known fact that mental illness is due to combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is also known that the active ingredients in cannabis can affect the brain in many different ways as stated earlier. This includes destruction of brain cells. It reduces the cells connectivity with each other so that communication among the brain cells is reduced. And there is imbalance in the neurotransmitters. These are all predisposing factors to the development of mental illness.

Impact of associated factors:

One important issue is that cannabis does not affect everyone in the same way. Those with great risk of developing mental illness from the abuse of cannabis are those who already have the genetic predisposition. The risk of developing mental illness from the use of cannabis is also dose dependent. This means, the more the intake of▲9THC, the greater the risk. Also, the earlier the onset of the use of cannabis, the greater the risk of developing mental illness. This is more possible when the use is started in adolescence. 

Mental illness:

The type of mental illness developed, will depend on the genetic factor. And many researchers have confirmed that the abuse of cannabis can predispose the user to schizophrenia like psychosis.

Cannabis can also predispose to other mental illness such as depressive disorders, bipolar disorders, anxiety disorders, etc.

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