He was stark naked and walking incoherently along the presidential road, Enugu, last Tuesday afternoon.
Looking at the young man who was murmuring to himself as he walked, he was not up to 25 years old. Yet, he has become so haggard with overgrown hair and fingernails. Those who stood by and watched as the young man walked past adduced several reasons for his current mental imbalance.
“He was a bus conductor. But he has sold himself to taking the deadly substance called Mkpuru Mmiri (Methamphetamine or Crystal Meth). See what it has turned him into,” one of them said.
Another young man, who joined in the discussion, gave the name of the mentally deranged young man as Kelechi, saying: “They usually source the drug from Asata or Abakpa area. I also heard that it is available in the New Artisan area, which was demolished by the state government some time ago. I heard that they supply it from the nerthern states.”
He added that the mentally deranged young man combined smoking Mkpuru Mmiri with other hard drugs, adding that, “the worse of it all is that he hardly eats good and enough food. But in order to continue to be high, he takes it as if it is food.”
In a video that has gone rival, which he personally made, one Shedrack, who claims to be the Chairman of Ogboifite youths in Aguta Local Council of Anambra State, had lamented the danger posed to the society by the substance.
Shedrack had in the video pointed at an uncompleted building in the area. He said the building was proposed for use as a high court complex by the administration of former governor Peter Obi, but could not be completed before he left office.
“This is where they sell Mkpuru Mmiri in this area. It is a dangerous drug and it is destroying our youths. The vigilante knows about this place. It is a young man who returned from South Africa that is running the cartel. The other time, I came here with some youths and we arrested three girls. We have to do something to stop this illicit business before it will destroy our youths,” he was seen shouting in the video.
At another location in Nsugbe, in Oyi Local Council of Anambra State, some youths arrested two young girls that sold the deadly substance in the area.
One of the girls, whose name was given as Onyinye from Isuaniofia in Awka, said she was only helping her mother to sell the substance.
The group that caught her had brought two young addicts, who looked haggard and pale and asked her to identify them. Onyinye indeed identified the young men as her customers, but disclosed, “I stopped selling the substance to them when I was warned that they have become mentally deranged.”
She narrated that she, “usually sold the substance to them even when they didn’t have money. It is not as if I force them to buy; they indicate on their own that they want it and that they will pay later.”
The youths that arrested her later asked her to quit the community with her mother or be ready to face whatever might befall them if they dared to disobey their order.
Last week, Umudioka, a community in Dunukofia Local Council of Anambra State, also declared war on illicit drugs, including crystal meth.
In a public service announcement signed by the President General of Umudioka Improvement Union, Mr. Chike Odoji, the community said the sales and consumption of these illicit drugs had been proscribed in their environment.
He disclosed that they would be working with National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Police Anti Cult Unit and other relevant law enforcement agencies to begin the arrest of defaulters, dealers and consumers within the community.
He advised the youth to stay away from anywhere illicit drugs was traded or consumed, stressing that the community won’t spare anyone that violates the directive no matter the person’s social status.
Other illicit drugs proscribed alongside Mkpuru Mmiri in the community were Isi na Awa Agu, Aju Achu Enwe, Stonch and India hemp. These are names of the drugs in their local parlance.
Also perturbed by the rising use of the substance among youths in Enugu, the Enugu State Students Community, last Thursday, joined the campaign against it and other hard drugs.
The students took the campaign through major roads and streets of Enugu, the capital city. The road walk started from Okpara Square through Enugu metropolis and ended at the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) where a sensitisation programme was held.
The march, which was organised by the Special Assistant on Students Affairs to Enugu State Governor, Ilogebe Chidi, was aimed at lending a voice against the menace caused by the abuse of hard drugs amongst young persons. They displayed banners and placards that urged youths to abstain from drug abuse especially Mkpuru Mmiri.
Indeed, there are worries about the rate of consumption of hard drugs by young men and women, especially in the Southeast region. The worries are further heightened by the rate at which mentally deranged able-bodied young men and women now roam the streets.
Most discussions in public places in the region now centre on how youths consume Mkpuru Mmiri in particular. The region has also started recording an increase in all kinds of crime. Stories of people breaking into private apartments to look for money or missing pots of soup, including the ones on fire, are now common.
Sources alleged that some youths take to all manner of crimes after taking the substance. “It makes them look down on anyone that comes their way. They do not think that anyone can contend with them after taking the drugs, that is the point,” a source stated.
Investigations by The Guardian revealed that the abuse of the substance has become a topical issue in the Southeast region. However, sources said it is sourced from the northern part of the country. It was further gathered that because the substance is far cheaper than other illicit drugs, many youths are embracing it.
“They said it is one way they can subdue frustration and think less about the nearly hopeless situation in the country. You also know that the price of some of these illicit drugs like cocaine and what have you is now on the high side. So, they think Mkpuru Mmiri is affordable and available,” a social worker, Mrs. Catherine Ibe told The Guardian.
The substance, it was gathered, looks like an ice block, but can also be blue in colour. It is said to be one of the hardest drug addictions to treat. Sources said it could be dissolved in water and consumed hence the Igbo name Mkpuru Mmiri.
“It is very addictive and affects the central nervous system of whoever takes it. It creates a feeling of massive happiness that is very addictive and makes the taker want to fly. When the effect wears off, the taker tries to have that feeling again thereby taking it again,” a medical expert, Dr. Jude Onah stated.
He added that someone with addiction to the drug can be identified by his tattered dressing and shabby looks, adding that, “he or she is always picking at hair or skin; loss of appetite and weight loss; moving eyes about every time; strange sleeping patterns – staying up for days or even weeks at a time; always talking nonstop; borrowing money often, selling possessions or stealing; angry outbursts or mood swings; psychotic behavior such as paranoia and hallucinations.”
He added that it creates possible death and makes one to age fast and look sick all the time, explaining that the “treatment has always been handled by psychiatrist experts, the same way people with mental derailment are treated.”
“My only worry is that when such ugly damage is caused on one’s body, the percentage of survival will seriously be hampered,” he noted.
A psychiatrist, Dr. Nok Obayi, on his part, said the substance used to be common in Asian countries. He added that what was yet to be determined was whether there were other substances added to the ones being taken in Nigeria that have created the devastating effect being seen on those consuming it.
We are not sure it is entirely the crystal meth that they are taking now because people that come to you are people that have problems. It is either they are violent or what have you. Generally, most people now use certain combinations and concoctions and that makes it difficult to use the chemical to test. For instance, if it is something like cocaine you want to test and it happens that the patience added probably charcoal or any other substance to what he consumed, the chemical may see only cocaine and not the other substance. It takes only inquiring from the patience to know. But we have a standard treatment for cocaine and Indian hemp,” he explained.
Speaking in the same vein, a consultant psychiatrist and Medical Director of Tranquil and Quest Behavioural Health, Lagos, Dr. Gbonjubola Abiri, described crystal meth as an illicit substance.
Her words: “It is an illicit substance of abuse also known as Crystal Methamphetamine, it is strong and highly addictive. It affects the central nervous system in the human body. It is illicit because it is not a drug that has been regulated for everyday use. It falls in the category of drug stimulants. With respect to its features and composition, it looks like glass fragments or shiny bluish-white rocks. The street name is hype or glass; it’s a popular party drug. It originates from Asia; it has been around since World War two, it was initially a substance given to soldiers to stay awake.”
She explained that the substance could be consumed through smoking, ingesting in the form of pills or snorting it through the nose, or by injection with the powder mixed with alcohol or water.
“Basically, they take a lot of it, sleep off and then they are back to it; so it becomes a pattern. This is known as the binge crash pattern phenomenon. It has been noticed from research that users of crystal meth neglect food and continue to use it to increase euphoria. Users put up a bolder, aggressive, impulsive and violent behavioural pattern. Overall, they exhibit behavioural traits that are out of the ordinary. What this drug does to a person is increase the amount of a chemical called dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter; it controls the nerves,” she added.
On how people addicted to the substance could be rehabilitated, she said: “I need to establish that people use drugs for two reasons; to run away from pain or to run towards pleasure. It puts them in a roller-coaster state of mind; hence it is hard to treat because, after long usage, the functions of the brain start to deteriorate. So, the functions of thought, cognition, emotion, perception, feelings and even behaviour start to become affected. The individual usually becomes more anxious and confused. The brain becomes rewired as the individual becomes dependent on the substance; this is known as addiction. Even with the amount of damage it causes them, they don’t stop. It essentially severs every aspect of their personal lives; it drives them to criminal activities and other worse things.
“The treatment process entails putting them in a controlled environment like a mental health facility. The stage that occurs for the individual at the beginning of treatment is that they crave it even more; they become more aggressive because the last bit of it is leaving their body. And in that time, the brain starts to repair itself. The rehabilitation process is between three and six months or sometimes a year. But a major issue for most people is relapse – they go back to it.”
On the difference between crystal meth and other illicit drugs, Abiri explained that drugs like marijuana are psychoactive depressants while some drugs called shrooms from mushrooms are hallucinogens and extremely dangerous.
“As quick as they give the ‘high’ is just as quick as they can kill a person. This happens when the individual has taken an overdose of the substance. Crystal meth distorts reality; it brings poor judgment and it can also lead to mental illness. The symptoms of overdose in the use of Crystal meth are nausea, convulsion, irregular breathing, irregular heartbeats, irregular body temperature and hallucination,” she added.