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This is strange for me. I am used to writing ‘how to’ articles but this one details a process which we desperately urge you not to try. If we were discussing substance abuse as per cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin, there would be a possibility that some movie has made it seem cool enough for you to try it. But nothing can make us see the swag in one of the latest substance abuse trends where people get high on sewage.

The practice which became common among street children in Zambia in the 90s was then known as ‘Jenkem’. It involved the collection and fermentation of human waste which would be inhaled as a recreational drug. It was a popular substitute when the children couldn’t afford glue or petrol. A 1999 report by the BBC describes how the users would collect the human excrement, stuff it into plastic bottles, taking care to leave room for methane to form at the top.

Poverty was believed to be one of the factors that led to this trend in Zambia, so it comes as no surprise that its use has grown amidst Nigeria’s economic downturn. That same economy could be the reason for the poor funding of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency. As an illustration, the NDLEA had only one vehicle, a Hilux truck for its operations in Bayelsa and Rivers States as at 2016. We don’t know how the NDLEA and other agencies are going to sort out the substance abuse menace but they will have to find a good balance between rehabilitation and enforcement, after all, one cannot easily ban excrement the way one would ban hard drugs. With this and other ‘new’ substances being abused by Nigerian youths today, it’s clear that the Government has its hands full.

If it’s any comfort (no, it’s not), Jenkem is also being used  by American youths. It is said to take effect within seconds of inhalation and can cause hallucinations which could last up to an hour. Its users report being in a hallucinogenic state of consciousness, and sometimes talking to dead people. Each society or group has its own name for it, including no surprise, ‘shit’.

There is a theory that substance abuse goes hand in hand with crime, cultism and that sort of thing. And while the nation currently has its share of vices from gang life to militancy, this theory is not universal.

Substance abuse is an indictment on the family unit as a building block of society. It also questions what the orientation agencies and civil society organizations are doing. In the 80s, a person didn’t have to be talked out of drug abuse. There were lots of dramatizations and public service productions on television talking about the dangers of drug abuse. But today the problem has evolved so much that we realize we can’t say ‘drug’ abuse. Substance abuse is more apt.

The image above shows some of the other common substances people are turning to for their high such as, 10 day old uring, burnt bitumen, burnt tyres, bleach and Tramadol. The availability of these substances should be a wake up call to everyone who cares.

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