Role of Social Media in Creating Drug Abuse Essay

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Role of Social Media in Creating Drug Abuse Essay

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Abstract The study seeks to establish the general trend of the drug problem and critically analyse strategies used to address the problem; attempts to identify the role that twitter can play in creating awareness of the danger that drug abuse can bring to the society in general and within Nigerian campuses in particular. The findings of this study will aid in evaluating whether these strategies have the potential to help the government in curbing the drug problem among the youths, with a view to coming up with a more comprehensive Programme for addressing the problem in schools.

Many university undergraduates in Nigeria who do not have access to internet via computer now do so through smart phones such as iPhones, BlackBerrys, pads, etc., have Twitter accounts and are active users. Drug abuse among the undergraduates has endangered their lives. This is causing a lot of concern, and it has been identified as a major cause of some of the problems experienced even in Nigerian secondary schools. Nigeria, with the other developing African countries, has been caught up with the indiscriminate use, abuse and dependence on drugs of various types. Within the university campuses, drug abuse is becoming an increasing problem.


The history of the human race has also been the history of drug abuse. In itself, the use of drugs does not constitute an evil. Drugs, properly administered, have been a medical blessing. For example, herbs, roots, bark leaves and plants have been used to relieve pain and help control diseases. However, over the past few decades, the use of illegal drugs has spread at an unprecedented rate and has reached every part of the world. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report (2005), some 200 million people, or 5 percent of the total world’s population aged 15 – 64 have used drugs at least once in the last 12 months an implied 15 million people more than the 2004 estimate. The report goes on to say that, no nation has been immune to the devastating effects of drug abuse. According to the World Drug Report (2005), the use of illicit drugs has increased throughout the world in recent years.

The report further states that a major world trend is the increasing availability of many kinds of drugs to an ever widening socio-economic spectrum of consumers. The report argues that the main problem of drugs at global level continue to be opiates (notably heroine) followed by cocaine. For example, for most of Europe and Asia, opiates continued to be the main problem drugs, accounting for 62 percent of all treatment in 2003. Reports from a total of 95 countries indicated that drug seizures increased four-fold in 2003, and more than half of these were from cannabis. A report released by the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) in 2004 estimated that 3.3 to 4.1 percent of the global population consumes drugs, but more worrisome is that according to the UNDCP executive director, those who are hooked are the younger generation. In Pakistan for example, it was reported that the share of those who started heroine use at 15 – 20 years has doubled to almost 24 percent of those surveyed.

Every country in the world, developed or developing, incurs substantial costs as a result of damages caused by substance abuse (World Drug Report, 2005). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.1 billion people, representing a third of the world population above the age of 15 years, use tobacco, principally in the form of the cigarettes. Of these smokers, 800 million, 700 million of them males, live in developing countries (WHO, 2004). While smoking rates have been declining in the developed world, they have increased in the developing countries by as much as 50 percent, especially in Asia and in the Pacific region, over the last decade. Addiction to tobacco is therefore a major problem in the developing countries. According to the same report, tobacco causes four million deaths annually, not including infant morbidity and mortality.

Despite eradication efforts in countries in Africa, the region still remains a major supplier of some drugs such as cannabis, which is one of the most widely abused drugs. Since the early nineteen eighties, Africa has been experiencing an escalating problem with drug abuse and trafficking. All the while, Africa’s role in the global drugs supply chain is increasing. Already the continent is the second largest region for cannabis production, trafficking and consumption, accounting for 26 percent of global seizures of this drug in 2001 (UNODC, 2004). The largest amounts acquired in this period were in Kenya, Nigeria, and the Republic of South Africa, while Morocco is said to be one of the main producers of Cannabis resin.

The situation described above is true in developed countries that have been experimenting with such drugs for a long period. However, developing countries are not exempted from the dangers. All countries, Nigeria inclusive, are vulnerable. It has been noted that Nigeria is one of the developing countries in Africa that has lately been experiencing rapid increase in production, distribution and consumption of multiple drugs of dependence (Acuda and Yambo 1983; World Health Organization, 1995; Daily Nation, March 2, 2006).


Drug abuse amongst the youth in Nigeria has become a serious problem affecting all the people of the country. Addiction leads many people, young people prominent amongst them, into downward spiral of hopelessness that in some cases ends fatally. They range from glue- sniffing street children and teenage to hardcore heroin and cocaine addicts. Drug abuse is sometimes responsible for acts of violence that lead to destruction of property in schools, soaring health care costs, evil practices inside and outside the campuses and broken families. It is a problem which affects us all as parents, children, teachers, government officials, taxpayers and workers. This evil must be stop and the easy method to adopt is through awareness creation through social network particularly by tweeting at your friends or followers of the dangers posed by drug abuse.

The overall purpose of this study is to find out the current trend of drug abuse among the undergraduate students in Nigeria and analyze the strategies used to address the problem, with the social media site, Twitter in view. The ultimate aim is to propose a programme to help curb the problem. The specific objectives of the study are as follows. To:

a) Examine the role of twitter in creating awareness about drug abuse among Nigeria youth. b) Identify and evaluate strategies used among undergraduate to address drug abuse, their effectiveness and shortcomings. c) Propose strategies that could help curb drug abuse among the youths.

The study attempted to answer the following questions:
RQ1. What is the computer literacy level of UNILAG students?
RQ2. How exposed are students to twitter?
RQ3. What is the extent of drug abuse among youths?
RQ4. What are the main causes of drug abuse among the youths?
RQ5. How often are students exposed to drug abuse awareness on twitter? And what role could twitter play in creating awareness of the dangers of drug abuse among the youths in Nigeria?

The literature presented in this chapter deals with research findings on The Role of Twitter in Creating Awareness about Drug Abuse among Nigerian Youth, All the literature is descried and explained in order to build a theoretical background for the study. Drug abuse, also known as Substance abuse, is a patterned use of a substance (drug) in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods neither approved nor advised by medical professionals. Substance abuse/drug abuse is not limited to mood-altering or psycho-active drugs. If an activity is performed using the objects against the rules and policies of the matter (as in steroids for performance enhancement in sports), it is also called substance abuse.

Therefore, mood-altering and psychoactive substances are not the only types of drugs abused. Using illicit drugs – narcotics, stimulants, depressants (sedatives), hallucinogens, cannabis, even glues and paints, are also considered to be classified as drug/substance abuse. Substance abuse often includes problems with impulse control and impulsive behaviour In the modern medical profession, the three most used diagnostic tools in the world, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM),the World Health Organization’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and ICRIS Medical organization Related Health Problems.

Some of the drugs most often associated with this term include alcohol, amphetamines, and barbiturates, benzodiazepines (particularly alprazolam, lorazepam, and clonazepam, cocaine, methaqualone, and opioids. Use of these drugs may lead to criminal penalty in addition to possible physical, social, and psychological harm, both strongly depending on local jurisdiction. There are many cases in which criminal or antisocial behavior occur when the person is under the influence of a drug. Long term personality changes in individuals may occur as well.

The theoretical frame work considered to best suit this research are; Exposure Theory: This Theory simply deals with how one chooses to expose himself to some particular media content. It can be divided into three stages which are Selective exposure, Selective attention and Selective retention theory. The Selective exposure means you simple select the kind of content you open yourself to e.g. Most students prefer to expose themselves to entertainment news rather than political news. Now even after exposing yourself to a particular kind of content, it’s not everything you listen to. In the entertainment news they might be talking about fashion and the music industry and you choose to listen to only the fashion news, that is you selectively putting your attention to the fashion news and for the selective retention you chose to remember a few things mentioned in the fashion news.

Every other thing said is regarded as noise to you. How this theory relates to our topic is basically that not everyone exposes themselves to the twitter social network and even amongst those who are using twitter not everyone gets to see the messages on drug abuse awareness and for those who do see the messages only a few choose to retain what they saw and act upon it. On selective exposure you have to be following the handles that tweet on drug abuse, and for the selective attention well if you’re following the handle not all their tweets will catch your attention and the few that catch your attention and you choose to act upon is the one you selectively retain.

Perception Theory
1964 Propounded by B. Berelson and G. A. Steiner
Perception is the process by which we interpret sensory data which comes to us through our five senses. It involves learning, updating perspective, and interacting with the observed. This theory basically deals with the audience’s views and perception towards the information he just received. It’s safe to say that after the exposure theory the next theory is perception in the sense that after being exposed to a message and retaining it what comes after is ‘How do you decode the message’. A group of people can listen to a Christian program on TV, but the way an atheist would perceive the message would be different from how a Moslem or an Ifa worshiper would decode it. In the case of twitter this theory also comes into play, whereas people’s views on drug abuse differ.

Some people think drug abuse refers to the abuse of only hard drugs forgetting that drug abuse can also involve prescribed drugs too like painkillers. There are a few handles on twitter eg. @UnilagAmebor @Yada360 @Afrohow etc who often tweet about the damaging effects abusing drugs could have on an individual, and for every tweet, each twitter user has their own different way of perceiving it. There was a time @yada360 tweeted a picture showing the lungs of a smoker and captioned it “ Keep smoking if you want your lungs to end up like this”. Some users saw the tweet as a threat tweet, while others saw it as an advice and a few just saw it as just another tweet talking about smoking and they paid it no attention.

Participants and procedure
The need to quantify human behavioural attitude is always necessary in social sciences statistics and there are various ways in which this can be done; survey, content analysis, experiment and historical methods. The Survey in this study was analytic, because the topic under study is twitter and the role it plays in creating drug abuse awareness among Nigerian youths. This survey seeks to determine the relationships between twitter, Nigerian youths, and drug abuse awareness. The systematic random sampling method was used to select a sample of 20 respondents from each level of the full-time undergraduate students of the Mass Communication Department of University of Lagos, with Diploma students inclusive bringing the total sample size to 100respondents. The instrument was personally administered and there was the absence of intimidation from any quarters which accounted for 100% return rate. The respondents were open to their opinions. The questionnaires were filled and collected on the spot. There were multiple choice questions in the questionnaire.


The major findings of the study are analyzed against the backdrop of the 4 research questions. The results of the demographic inquiries revealed by respondents are between the ages of 16-29. All of them are full-time undergraduates from 100-400 level including diploma students of Mass Communication department.(UNILAG).

RQ1. What is the computer literacy level of UNILAG students? To determine the level of literacy among students of mass communication UNILAG; respondents were made to answer three questions; “Are you computer literate?” ” how do you access the internet?”, and “what social media do you use?”


This study has been able to confirm that most Nigerian Youths, especially Undergraduates in Nigerian Universities use social media. In Africa, Nigeria is one of the foremost countries that maintain a strong online presence. One of the most popular social media sites among them is Twitter. They use Twitter mainly for socialization purposes. This social media site is a good platform to spread information about the destructive effects of drug abuse. It is a good forum to get to the youth and educate them concerning Drug abuse, particularly the evils that it leads to, and the different ways they can avoid or treat this problem. The fact that a lot of youths actually tweet about using hard drugs is unfortunate. More alarming is that some twitter users see it as a means of gaining some form of reputation.These people or accounts are termed ‘twitter overlords’. The implication of this is that a lot of people following these accounts try to do the same,thus the cycle goes on.

Based on the findings of this research,we have put together a few recommendations that should facilitate the effective use of Twitter in creating Drug Abuse awareness among Nigerian Youth.

1.Twitter is one of the most popular media of socialization which is used mostly by the youth; this medium should be used extensively by corporate bodies In charge of the control of drugs and drug usage by tweeting about the danger of using drugs without a doctor’s prescription.

2.Use facts and not scare-tactics to educate youth. Education is a key component of any plan to change self-destructive behavior. In order for it to be effective, education must be completely factual and not just rational. Many of these youths are not moralists, so trying to make them ‘do good’ might not help much. We should start to focus awareness campaigns on information which is scientifically accurate.

3.The use of visual and audible presentation of materials, enlarged print, voice enhancers and blackboards or flip charts which could be used as Avatars on twitter, or ‘twitpicced’ by agencies in charge of Drug Control.

4.The level of awareness about drug abuse in the developed countries cannot be compared to the situation in Nigeria; these developed countries make use of twitter to educate their youth with various handles which continually tweet and send messages about the implication of drug abuse.Handles like @NIDA on American Twitter is a good example.

5.Even the mass media in Nigeria has not helped much in creating awareness about the menace of abusing drugs. South African media dedicate their handles to drug abuse awareness creation. Such handles as @rhinobliz tweeted “As South Africa, lets unite to fight the scourge of Drug abuse. Our youth are wasting their lives on daily basis #advancingSA”

6. NDLEA and other drug agencies like NAFDAC should focus on youth on twitter by tweeting frequently on the dangers.

7. Drug abuse should be given the same treatment or publicity as HIV,AIDS Cancer and other deadly diseases.

8. Governments, schools and NGO’s should maintain online presence and post issues concerning the effects of drugs. The president of South Africa @JacobZuma has tweets concerning drug abuse and its dangers.They should also monitor online content, as a lot of teenagers have the tendency to ‘twitpic’, tweet about or ‘instagram’ hard drugs before they use them.

9.Parents and guardians should always make out time for their children/wards and enlighten them on the ills of drug abuse.They should also be aware of the group of people they move with, and how they use the internet.It is suprising the wealth of destructive information a person can be exposed to on the internet. 10. Government agencies like Nigerian Immigration and Customs should ensure tight border security, to minimize smuggling of drugs. These agencies should also maintain online presence, especially on twitter, as they are liable to get information through to a lot of users on it.

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