Interest in drug abuse as a. social problem area began with the observation, among mental health experts, that many of the young people admitted into psychiatric hospitals because of psychotic reactions had been involved with Cannabis. Data collected from patient files were published affirming the observation that cannabis use was associated with psychosis (Asuni, 1964; Lambo, 1965; Boroffka, 1966). Most of the victims of this “new” problem were described as artisans, musicians political thugs, and other categories of youth living in urban areas.
More than anything else, this first generation of drug use research in Nigeria created the persistent image of cannabis as a drug that “makes you mad.” There was little attempt at the time to show how and under what conditions cannabis use led to the observed mental health outcomes.
Nevertheless, other drugs became implicated in what researchers and policy makers believed was a rising trend in psychiatric morbidity in the country. For example, Oviasu (1976), also using hospital records. noted an increase in the abuse of stimulants by secondary school students. In an analysis of 491 eases involving the use of drugs by clients in one hospital and covering a period of four years. the author showed that amphetamines and “Proplus” (a preparation in tablet form with 50 mg of caffeine) were the most often abused stimulants. The presenting conditions in most of these cases seen at the hospital were toxic psychosis and anxiety state. Other studies in similar clinical settings showed that barbiturates (e.g., Chinese capsules“), mandrax (rnetaqualone combined with diphenthydrarnine), and several over-the-counter (OTC) drugs were abused in varying degrees by urban youth, and that alcohol abuse was principally a problem among older people.