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« A Realistic Educational Policy for African Countries | Main | Can Africans Govern Themselves Well? »

August 22, 2005

Africans (Nigerians) and Addiction to mood-Altering Drugs

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington)--- Human beings are prone to addictions to mood altering agents like food, alcohol, drugs and sex. Africans are human beings. Therefore, Africans are prone to the addictions that human beings are prone to.

Whereas the issue of addictions is squarely addressed in the Western world, it is seldom mentioned in Africa. It is as if Africans are not prone to addictions. This is very unfortunate, for Africans are as addicted to drugs as other races of mankind.

Take a casual walk along the streets of Lagos, Nigeria. You see men with very fat bellies. Some of these people look like they are pregnant and like they are about to give birth to twins.

In a misguided way, many of these people actually believe that their fat tummies are symbols of their living the good life. They, in fact, think that having grossed fat all over their bodies mean that they are wealthy persons. Indeed, they expect people to see them as very important persons from the fact of their fatness. To be an “oga”, big man, in Nigeria, one must be fat.

This is sad, very sad. Fat means that they are sick. In fact, they are reducing their life span by being fat. The estimated life span of Nigerians is 46 years (and 78 years for white Americans).

These people eat like there is no tomorrow, become fat and clog their arteries with fat. They usually die from cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks and strokes). And when they die from these preventable diseases, their people believe that they died from magic spell cast on them by their enemies.

The average Nigerian is about five feet, eight inches tall. This means that he should not weigh more than one hundred and sixty pounds. In order not to weigh more than his normal weight, the individual must eat the right food and engage in physical exercises. There are four food groups: protein, carbohydrate, fats and minerals. The individual is supposed to balance food from the four groups in his daily diet, so as to stay fit.

The individual needs to exercise regularly. There are three types of exercises: cardiovascular, strength and flexibility. To meet these exercise requirements, the individual needs to run five miles, at least, three times a week, or for an hour each time; play tennis, swim, ride bicycles, work out in gyms with weights and generally engage in other forms of exercises.

It is an unusual sight to see Nigerians jogging. It is even more unusual to see Nigerians eating balanced meals. Generally, they eat as if they have never heard that overeating leads to fat, which leads to diseases. When you go to their houses or to their parties, they just eat, eat and eat, as if they live to eat and not eat to live.

Alcohol is a serious problem with many Nigerians. They drink palm wine, beer, Western wine, whisky, gin and other hard liquor, as if no one has told them that those are, in fact, drugs that are not good for their bodies. It makes one sick seeing them downing liquor as if they are unaware of what they are doing to their livers and brains. They develop liver cirrhosis (hence their fat tummies) and deplete their brains of vitamin B hence their sluggish thinking.

The average Nigerian seems addicted to food and alcohol and may not know it. Upon the slightest stress in their lives, they run to food and alcohol to cope with it. It is a well known fact that people use overeating and alcohol to attempt to reduce stress in their lives. Life is very stressful and the individual must seek ways to reduce it, but the best way to do so is through exercises and other healthy lifestyles.

Drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroine, amphetamines and LSD are not readily available to Nigerians. If they were, one’s guess is that many Nigerians would resort to them, in their efforts to cope with the stressful exigencies of modern urban living. Given their tendency to not want to understand their issues psychologically, it is probable that many Nigerians will be addicted to these more serious drugs. I have never seen a group of people who have refused to gain insight into why they do what they do as Nigerians. Nigerians simply behave like extroverts and do not pause to ask why they do, what they do. Extroverts tend eschew introspection; they tend to engage in drug abuse when tension mounts in their unexamined lives.

I predict that, soon, we shall have more drug abuse in Nigeria than we have in the United States. (It should be noted that in the United States itself that drug abuse is a phenomenon found chiefly among African Americans and white trash, folks less subject to reflecting on their behaviors.)

Nigerians generally find it easy to rationalize their odious behaviors. Those who call themselves big men justify having many wives and many girl friends or visiting prostitutes. I personally know many Nigerian big men who have concubines and mistresses all over Nigeria. If you ask them why they do so, they glibly tell you that African cultures approved polygamy and that they are living according to their African cultures, not the Christian mandated one man-one wife practice. (Polygamy was not as common in traditional African societies, as nostalgic Africans tend to think that it was. I have reviewed my male ancestors, during the past two hundred years, and none of them had more than one wife.) Fela Anikulapo Kuti told himself that lie. In one fell swoop, Fela married tons of wives and HIV and died from it. Apparently, unexamined African cultures kill.

We are no longer living in traditional African societies and what was tenable there is no longer so in our modern urban setting. It is self evident that in our current world, the best marital form is one man-one wife. It is the most hygienic form of sexual activity. Other forms of sexual behavior lend themselves to contracting sexually transmitted diseases like Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Herpes, and HIV.

Alas, HIV is spreading like uncontrolled wild fire in all over Africa, largely because of Africans easy proclivity to casual sex. Let me state, in no equivocal terms: a rational adult must limit his sexual activity to one partner of the opposite sex. I am not interested in engaging in infantile rationalizations as to why folks should not do the right thing.

More to the point, Nigerians who engage in sex with multiple partners may not know it: they have sex addiction. Just as they are addicted to food and alcohol, they are also addicted to sex. They may not even know that there is such a thing as addiction to sex.

Sex, like drugs, is a mood-altering phenomenon. Upon ejaculation/organism, the individual feels his or her body relaxed. His consciousness is momentarily altered. In a word, he feels good. This feeling of pleasure from sex makes sex a potential addictive activity.

When under stress, people do secure momentary release from it by engaging in frequent sexual activity. There are people who have sex three or more times a day. Indeed, some of them do so with different sex partners. These people may not know it; they are using sexual intercourse to obtain reduction of their anxiety and stress. They are sex addicts.

There are many men who cruise city streets, picking up prostitutes and having sex with them. Some patronize pornography. They buy the cheap smut that litter the streets of Lagos and masturbate while looking at the naked women.

As long as they have the money to pay for it, Nigerian men find willing female merchants of sex. It is said: “money for hand, back na for ground”.

Nigerians are particularly amoral over sexual matters. If you have the money, many women, even students at universities, even married women, are willing to sell their genitals to you. Indeed, if one is in a position of authority, the Nigerian female often initiates sexual activity with one, just so that she gets something from one.

Nigeria is a culture that has gone to hell in a hand basket. No one has shame over sexual matters, any more. The Nigerian office is, more or less, a whorehouse. Female employees are often no more that their bosses sex toys. (This ought to be something for feminists to fight for; after all, men are exploiting those hapless office whores.)

What is sexual addiction? Every time one has sex with a sexual partner that one does not love, one is a sex addict. Sex is healthy if it is between two loving adults, a man and a woman. Sex is healthy when it is engaged in heterosexual marriage situations.

Sex addiction has nothing to do with the frequency of sexual activity. One can have sex once a year and still be a sex addict. The difference is why that sex? Did you have sex with a love-partner or did you have it with a person that you did not care for? If you do not care for your sex partner, you are a sex addict.

A sex addict uses sex to reduce his or her stress. If you have sex indiscriminately with several women, you are using sex to alter your mood, just as a drug addict uses drugs to alter his or her body chemistry, so as to feel momentarily fine, before that wears off and he engages in another crazed effort to find drugs. Sex addicts engage in compulsive efforts to find sexual partners, so as to obtain momentary release from their somatic tension, and then the craving is repeated, over and over again.

Experts on human sexual behavior have told us about what constitutes normal sexual frequency The Mckinsey Report claims that three times a week of sexual activity is the norm for married couples. From my own talking to couples, it seems that Mckinsey was wrong. Couples tell me that they have sex about once a week. Indeed, many say that they do not even do so once a month. Simply stated, there is no such thing as normal sexual frequency; individuals are different. Some seem to have more need for sex than others. Some do not even care for sex at all.

For our present purpose, the salient point is that there is such a thing as addiction to sex and that Nigerians are probably the most sex addicted persons in the world.


Alcoholics Anonymous, in its Big Book, claims that all addictions are caused by self-centeredness. As it sees it, addiction is an ego event. The addict lives for himself only. Moreover, the addict thinks that he is in charge of his life. As it were, the addict has removed God from his life and sees himself as God and, as such, is in control of his life.

AA proposes to teach the addict to embrace a higher power as in charge of his life and to find a way to dedicate his self to serving the community to which he is a part of. The AA Twelve Steps Treatment Program seeks ways to teach the addict that he is egoistic and that he needs to let that ego go and surrender to a higher power. (Please read the AA big book, I do not have the space to review it here.)

Are Nigerians self-centered? What is a Nigerian but a person who does not believe himself connected to other persons, a person who lives mostly for himself? What is a Nigerian but an egotist who thinks that the rest of the world exists to admire and worship his vanity, to see him as a very important person, VIP, even if he contributes nothing relevant to human evolution?

Why do Nigerians go into government? They do so to steal money for themselves but not to serve the public good.

A Nigerian, in fact, would see you as insane if you told him that the best-lived life is one dedicated to serving the common interest of the people.

Sadly, Nigerians claim to be religious persons. They do not know the first thing about religion. To be religious is to see all people as children of one father, God, and, therefore, dedicate one’s self to serving all people’s interests.

Brother Jesus, the most developed human being that has walked this earth asks: “what do you want other people to do to you? You want them to love you”. Therefore, the brother asks you to love other people, as you love yourself. “Do unto others, as you want them to do to you”, the man from Nazareth teaches us. Jesus teaches that love is the sum of all past prophecies, laws and certainly his own gift to mankind, his Gospel.

Would you ask a Nigerian to do unto others, as he wants them to do to him? Love them, serve them? If you need something done for you, would you expect a Nigerian to do it for you?

You must be the most naive human being on earth to expect a Nigerian to render you selfless service; he is not going to do so, unless, of course, you bribe him. And even then, he would do a shoddy work for you.

In as much as we can empirically demonstrate that many Nigerians are egoistic, they are prone to addictive behavior, if that behavior is correlated with self centered egoism.


There are many drug treatment programs. However, I find the AA Twelve Steps Program still the best addiction treatment program. If one is addicted to drugs, one probably has either or both psychological or physiological addiction.

In psychological addiction, the craving for drugs is, more or less, in the mind. But in physiological addiction, the craving for drugs is in the body, as well as in the mind. Ones body is habituated to the drug and compels one to have it, just for one to feel normal. Alcohol addicts must drink some alcohol just to prevent their bodies from shaking. They, in fact, experience all sorts of TD and visual hallucinations when they withdraw from alcohol. In deed, alcohol addicts nerves and muscles are so used to alcohol that if they suddenly quit, they could experience cardiac arrest. Therefore, it is usually advisable for drug addicts to check themselves into hospitals, so that medical doctors would monitor their withdrawal from their drugs of choice. Often times, alcohol addicts are given the minor tranquilizers (Librium, Valium etc) to help their bodies cope with withdrawal from alcohol. Serious addicts probably need to be in hospitals, so that physicians may treat whatever medical complications they have. A month of stay in a hospital is often long enough to get the addict’s body to become dry, get rid of his drug of choice from his body.

After stay in a supervised treatment facility, the addict then needs to attend group therapy, sometimes several times a week, for months and years, to enable him become freed from the demon of drugs.

In the context of Nigeria, the first order of business is to get Nigerians to overcome their denial of addiction. The average Nigerian is killing himself with overeating, over drinking, polymorphous perverse sexuality and does not know it. This gross addict will look you in the face and tell you that he does not have an addiction problem. He will tell you that addiction is a white man’s problem, not his.

The shantytowns of Nigeria are teeming with alcohol denizens, frustrated folks consoling themselves for the loss of their traditional cultures with alcohol; folks caught in a society going through what Karl Marx (Der Capital)called “primitive capital accumulation stage of capitalist development”, hence in pain and salving their angst with alcohol.

If one can get Nigerian addicts to acknowledge that they have addiction problems, one has performed ones duty.

In this essay, my goal is to draw attention to the fact that many Nigerians/Africans have addiction issues and that they need to face that fact and go seek treatment.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji

Africa Institute, Seattle

600-1 Avenue, Suite 325

Seattle, Washington 98104

Posted by Administrator at August 22, 2005 04:20 PM


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