Substance abuse is increasing among young Nigerians and even those beyond the shores of the nation. 

The tide has given birth to a nickname for persons who engage in this act - Science Student. 

Everyone is looking for a solution that will permanently nail this trend to the cross of extinction or even minimal proportion and a former President of Nigeria is suggesting something that African nation's could adopt to address the issue. 

He wants West African governments to overhaul their drug laws to decriminalise personal use and prioritise treatment as a response to rising substance abuse in the region.

In an interview before he was due to present a model drug law to regional officials in Senegal on Tuesday, Obasanjo urged authorities to channel resources into fighting large-scale trafficking.

The use of substances like cocaine, heroin and amphetamines is rising in West Africa despite strict drugs laws.

Countries that once served primarily as transit points for trade between South America and Europe are now active consumer markets.

"All of us in West Africa know now that drugs are not just in transit through our countries.

"Our youth are becoming more and more consumers, even some form of drugs are being produced,” Reuters quoted Obasanjo as saying. 

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According to the UN, in 2016, the last year for which data was available, Africa registered the second-highest growth in cocaine seizures behind Asia.

Abuse of opioids, particularly the cheap painkiller Tramadol, has become a major health crisis in Nigeria and neighbouring countries.

The recommendations by Obasanjo’s West Africa Commission on Drugs come as a number of countries look to decriminalise drug use, especially marijuana, after decades of enforcement appear to have done little to curb it.

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Canada legalised recreational marijuana in June and most U.S. states have legalised the drug for medical or recreational use.

Prominent political figures have also called for decriminalisation in Mexico and Brazil in recent years.

'Prison Does Not Reform'

But he cited his own encounters with drug offenders during his period in Nigerian prison in the 1990s under the dictatorship of Sani Abacha, as he urged governments to find alternatives to incarceration.

“Prison does not reform. If anything it hardens,” he said.

Obasanjo named Senegal and Ghana as two countries that are moving to expand treatment options.

Senegal has since 2014 opened centres to treat addicts, while Ghana is considering a proposal to exempt first-time offenders from prison terms.

He said criminal syndicates, human traffickers and jihadist groups are profiting from the drug trade.

In some cases, he said, politicians in Nigeria and elsewhere are using the proceeds to finance political careers, he added.

“I fear that they may be creeping into our fledgling democracy and political life,” Obasanjo added.

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