I will like to start by dousing any diversion that the title might generate; this I intend to do by providing a rather familiar terminology to buttress this topic.
‘Weeds’ are sometimes used when we imply tobacco products which are smoked, chewed or snuffed. ‘Wine’ on the other hand may also mean alcoholic drinks in whatever strength. ‘Wild-sex’ is synonymous to sexual experience that is risky i.e. sex that is ladened with unintended consequences like sexually transmitted infections (STI) including HIV/AIDS and unplanned pregnancies.
Opening-up the weed
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality worldwide. Everyday 13,000 people die from tobacco use worldwide and nearly 6million people succumb to tobacco related illness annually1. If the current pattern of tobacco use and intervention effort is sustained, WHO projects a rise from 1.2billion to 1.6billion smokers and annual death increase from 4.9million to 10million between 2000 and 2030. Moreover, about 600,000 non smokers die yearly as a result of being exposed to secondhand smoke. Research however shows that nearly 80% of the world’s 1.2 billion smokers live in low and middle income countries (LMICs). It is estimated that the number of smokers in developing countries alone will rise to 1.4 billion by 2030 and if this goes unchecked tobacco will not only be the leading cause of premature mortality in industrialized nations, but also the leading cause of premature death worldwide2.
Sadly, a lot of young people are trapped in this cul-de-sac, much more are being recruited daily and the epidemic of tobacco use is now approaching a catastrophic proportion. Nicotine the additive culprit in cigarettes, not only speeds up the nervous system but also stimulate users by offering a ‘transient energy’ which leaves them with nothing but lung cancer and cocktail of diseases in later years. The medical, social and economic cost to our society is fast becoming incalculable and something drastic must be done to reverse the trend.
World Health Organization Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHOFCTC) is a novel regulatory approach to reduce this menace, but many countries are not implementing its dictates despite having the law in place.
The soothing of the wine
The seemingly innocuous behavior of drinking alcohol only at weddings, funerals and festivals is now a regular practice at pastime in this age of globalization. Granted minimal alcohol intake is medically allowed but drawing the line between intoxication and safety is a height most users have never been able to attain. The soothing effect, the fear of withdrawal syndrome and pleasure disinhibition leaves most alcoholics without any emotional restraint against the next bottle.
Alcohol remains the most abused substance worldwide. WHO says that about 600,000 cancer deaths globally are due to alcohol consumption and this is second only to tobacco when cancer mortality is counted3. Alcoholics dig their own grave when they unwittingly intoxicate their liver with overdose of alcoholic drinks until it shuts down and cannot perform its natural function of detoxification. The enormity of this reckless behavior in our clime was on display, when over 80 young farmers in two different states in Nigeria were sent to an untimely grave following a drinking spree which was later found to be methanol poisoning. A lot of our youths in high schools and tertiary institutions are drinking their ‘destiny’ away obliviously and their parents and guardians are encumbered by the tasking economic situation, global liberalization and cultural laxity.
Tobacco and alcohol are not alone on this list; illicit drugs like cocaine, hemp, and heroine are becoming a growing concern. National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) estimated that 16million Nigerians use narcotic drugs, and now there is a growing evidence linking violence and drugs use. The world drug report of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC 2009) estimated that total number of people using illicit drugs at upwards of 250million. Mr. Perez de Cueller, at the special session of the United Nations indicated that “drug abuse is a time bomb ticking away in the heart of civilization and there is need to quickly find measures to deal with it before it explodes and destroys”
Sooner than we had thought, the fruits have started to trickle in. Indiscriminate shooting, terrorism that is all over the landscape, is a clarion call to take drugs away from miscreants. Blowing up a fellow human being cannot only be explained as religious extremism, radicalism or racism, someone might be ‘high on something’ to perform such heinous crime.
The Risk behind sex
Risky sexual behavior is one reason HIV transmission is still a menace. Premarital sex is now a norm, unprotected sex an adventure and sexually transmitted infections (STI) including HIV/AIDS and unplanned pregnancy a recurring consequence. Sex becomes risky when it is initiated at early age or unprotected with multiple partners. It is equally risky when it is done under the influence of alcohol which may hamper good judgment and accurate reasoning. HIV/AIDS is a growing pandemic that had devastated many families and communities worldwide. Its effects have been greatest in sub-Saharan African region. In Nigeria for example, HIV/AIDS remains No 1 killer and the country has the second largest population of people living with HIV/AIDS in the region4. Whether the country is winning the war against HIV/AIDS is still debatable, but the preponderance of risky sexual activity going on against the backdrop of poverty, violence, terrorism, rape, disrupted family ties etc may require a critical look. Just as the world is thinking of “Getting to zero” going by the theme of World AIDS Day 2015, sources of new HIV infection must be plugged. It is therefore imperative to address those socio-economic, political, cultural factors fueling its spread.
The nexus of the trio
Young people are at the centre of this destructive onslaught. They are not only the actors, but also the victims. Young people are very vulnerable to risky behaviors; peer pressure, excessive energy and risk taking tendencies seem to be their greatest undoing. They tend to initiate same early in life, maintain it into adulthood and if they are lucky to live long enough, the consequences of such reckless behavior will now frustrates their health and wellbeing in later years. Therefore, parents need to keep close tabs on their children; it is high time we started making trade-offs between our work and our wards. If they are left to smoke and drink, risky sex may not be too far from them.
Until we control illicit drug use and fix social determinants fanning the ember of risky behavior, our society may not witness the true peace we all crave.
There shall be peace in our homes, peace in our nation and peace all around the world.
Charles Olomofe (MBChB,MWACP)
Health and Behavioral Change Advocate
@chartol1 on twitter
- Building blocks for tobacco control: A World Health Organization (WHO) handbook 2004
- Taylor A, Bettcher D, Peck R. International law and the international legislative process: The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. In: Smith R et al., eds. Global public goods for health. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003: Chapter 11.
- WHO clarifies processed meat/cancer link after a ‘beacon-gate’. www.medscape.com
- Statistical report on women and men in Nigeria. National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) December 2014.