Dear Aunty – June 1998

Dear Aunty,

Smoking makes guys look cool. Why am I discouraged from smoking?

Confused Reader, Lagos

Cigarette adverts make smoking look like something you will enjoy doing. They must make  smoking look good enough to make you try it even though the same advert has a warning about smoking being harmful. You are discouraged from smoking because smoking causes a lot diseases and damage to the lungs. To understand how terrible smoking is for you, here are the things each cigarette contains:

  • Nicotine: A habit-forming drug
  • Black tars that stick to the lining of the lungs and make it hard to breathe.
  • Carbon monoxide and chemicals that poison the lungs.

A lot of people who smoke would stop if they could, but they are “hooked”. When older people get cancer or heart diseases from smoking, Of course, then it is too late.

Dear Aunty,

I have to smoke Marijuana (“Igbo”) to become sexually aroused. Is this normal?

Worried Reader, Kaduna.

Marijuana, often called “grass” is a mind-changing drug i.e. causes hallucinations. When absorbed into the body, it is carried to the brain where it makes you feel high but it also kills the brain cells and dulls the mind. This may in fact be responsible for the feeling of increased sexual arousal, which may in fact not be so. In spite of the myth that Marijuana increases sex performance, the truth is that impotency is a common problem among male users. Marijuana does this by depleting the male hormone (testosterone), which is necessary for sexual performance.

Embarrassment and lowered self esteem from sexual difficulties may result. This in turn away may intensify the craving for marijuana and it becomes a vicious cycle.

Dear Aunty,

I enjoy going out with the boys and getting “shacked” occasionally. I also see alcohol being served carefreely in homes and parties. So, what is all the noise about alcohol being a drug?

Curious Reader, Lagos

When people hear the word “drug”, they usually think of illegal street drugs such as marijuana, heroin, or cocaine. Sometimes, they think of prescription medicines – the drugs doctors prescribe to help patients get well. But alcohol is a drug! – the most widely used drug in the world. Like all drugs, alcohol causes changes in the human body. It acts as depressant on the body’s nervous system. A depressant slows a person down. Most drugs are not legal but it is legal to buy and to drink alcohol.

Dear Aunty,

I am 21 years old and in one of the Nigerian Universities. Although I am of the average height for a woman. My problem is my weight. I weigh 90 kg and this causes me a lot of embarrassment. I was a miserable and shy person until a friend introduced me to a diet pill to help me reduce my weight. Although I seem happier now and have shed a great deal of my weight, my life is no longer the same. I seem to do things I would like to do and I end up doing what I don’t want to – most importantly, I can neither sleep nor concentrate in class. Please help me. Am going crazy?

Desperate Reader, Enugu

The diet pills your friend introduced you to most probably contains amphetamines. Amphetamines are drugs invented to treat diseases but for many years doctor prescribed them for weight loss or lack of energy. The amphetamines pills are badly abused.

Amphetamines speed  up the nervous system that is why they are called “speed” or “pep” pills. They are addictive – i.e. the more you take, the more you need to take to feel the effect. They shut off natural warning signs. People “forget” to eat or rest (this is the reason for the weight loss). An individual on “speed” can collapse, and even die, from its effects, or have brain damage. Withdrawal from the of use of your “diet pills” is painful and frightening. You need to see your doctor immediately for help on how to withdraw from the use of the “diet pills” and better ways to lose weight.

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