Any keen observer can infer without fear of contradiction that the last few years have witnessed a serious decadence in societal morality in our nation, especially among the youths. The panache with which the moral fibre of this nation is being distorted and destroyed is so amazing. Indeed, if nothing is done to check this evil trend, the Nigerian society, without doubt, will degenerate into a state worse than what obtained in Sodom and Gomorrah, which had attracted the unrestrained wrath of God.
As a pharmacist, I am indeed horrified at the rate at which young girls walk into pharmacies and “drug stores” to demand for oral contraceptives. The rate is indeed mind-boggling. I am sure that if proper statistics is taken, we will be shocked to discover that the most used class of drugs among girls, especially those who fall between the ages of 13 and 25, are oral contraceptives!
Now consider the case of this young girl who just boldly walked into a pharmacy to seek advice from the pharmacist on duty on whether she could still go ahead to take a particular oral contraceptive she usually took each time she had sexual intimacy (of course, premarital and unprotected), which she had already taken for three consecutive times that same month.
Or this other case where this mature lady walked into a pharmacy to buy a drug (of course without prescription, as is usual in Nigeria ), but the pharmacist on duty, on noticing the drug she had just bought from one of the sales officers and called her back to intimate her with further information about the drugs. She was clearly informed about the contraindications of the drug, one of which is pregnancy. The lady who the pharmacist thought was married, declared, to the consternation of the pharmacist, that the actual reason for purchasing drug, was to do away with a few weeks old pregnancy! No doubt, an aftermath of indiscriminate immoral relationships with men.
It is unfortunate that these women take these drugs with abandon, and without any knowledge of the possible hazards it could pose to their systems, and its capacity to hamper their ability to conceive by the time they eventually marry. Looking at this issue critically: if a girl takes oral contraceptives to avoid premarital pregnancy, would that same contraceptives prevent her from contracting HIV or other STDs? A thousand times no! The reason therefore for the staggering number of secondary school girls, according to a newspaper report sometime ago, being found to be HIV positive after a random test conducted in few schools in Lagos, is now no more far-fetched.
Each time I see these girls and mature ladies too, come in to ask for oral contraceptives, the question that readily comes to my mind is: who really informs these women about these drugs? This question has remained unanswered until recently when I saw a poster in a pharmacy advertising a particular oral contraceptive. After taking a critical analysis of the terrible consequences such an advertisement could portend to our unmarried youths, parents and the entire society, I shook my head in sorrow. I sincerely think that such adverts could constitute a keg of poison to the entire human race.
On this particular poster was the picture of a young girl bemoaning her fate and biting her finger in regret for indulging in pre-marital sex. “Now how do I avoid getting pregnant?” was the question on her lips. Then the advertiser presented the drug being advertised as the solution! And with an air of finality, the advertiser declares that the drug is “your choice in emergency contraception.” Now, looking at the issue very closely, it was easy to see that the advertisers decided to use the picture of that young girl because such drugs mostly used by girls in that age bracket. Hence, they have become the juiciest targets of these advertisers!
When a nation permits uncritical advertisement of drugs that overtly or covertly promote promiscuity, I think that such a country is working hard to enact its doom. It is unfortunate that even when the Western are beginning to appreciate the need to preach sexual abstinence as the surest way of checking the spread of HIV, Nigeria is busy advertising contraceptives with vulgar ostentation.
If we will tell ourselves the truth, the reasons why a youth would refrain from engaging in premarital sex include – (a) If he/she fears God (i.e., genuinely born again) (b) If he/she had good moral upbringing (c) If the fear of teenage or premarital pregnancy was dully instilled in her (d) If such a fellow retains a lively fear of contacting HIV virus and other STDs.
Regrettably, this generation is one that has jettisoned and trampled under foot the first two reasons above. It is most painful that this age has witnessed a proliferation of churches and worship centers, yet the fear of God has remained in very serious decline. Some preachers teach their followers the acts of God, but deny them the knowledge of the ways of God and how to follow Him with reverential fear.
Many parents hardly have time to inculcate in their children good morals. They have abandoned their wards in the hands of maids and house-helps to mould their character. Worse still, our value system has become so distorted and warped. Things that men of past generations, whose scions we are, held sacrosanct, and which made for good morals, are now termed anachronistic.
If then the third deterrent referred to earlier is dully taken care of by the prescription of the advertisement we mentioned earlier, what again would restrain our youths from being practical dogs, seeing that the fourth reason above is not an issue to most youths, as their young and adventurous minds are easily overwhelmed by youthful exuberance and the Greek gifts that shameless men use to entice the young girls?
But we would want to ask: assuming all these associated hazards were not there to restrain the youth, is there no more any place in society for the high esteem that used to be allocated to chastity in the life of unmarried female folks? The society should know that when a girl has made a habit of sleeping around with men, then remaining faithful to her husband as after marriage, would almost be an impossible task.
Indeed, it is clear that contraceptives do not fall into the class of drugs called OTCs, which can be advertised, as they are strictly “prescription drugs.” So, advertising such drugs is a flagrant breach of one of the laws of pharmacy. The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), being the regulatory agency under whose remit this issue falls, should therefore rise up to check these clearly unlawful advertisement of contraceptives. Also, the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) should rise to the occasion and join forces with NAFDAC, as a way of living up to their responsibility of regulating the distribution and dispensing of drugs and poisons in our country. They should ensure that only trained professionals are involved in the distribution and dispensing of drugs and poisons in Nigeria as is the case in every other country of the world. This is because if a trained professional is restrained by his knowledge of the consequences of abuse of drugs and the ethics of his profession from dispensing these drugs to our youths when they come calling for them, can a patent medicine dealer resist the temptation since it is solely for commercial purposes that he is operating the drug store? The time to act is now.