By Benjamin Jimmy, Uyo

The Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse, CRISA, a non-governmental organisation has marked it 30 years of service, saying it has treated 700 drug users and addicts across the country.

Speaking at a media roundtable in Uyo, founder and Executive Director of CRISA, Prof. Isidore Obot, said the NGO has made a lot of strides in reaping the country of substance use and other drug-related abuses.

Founded in Jos in 1990, primarily as a research centre for information on substance abuse to address the growing need of substance-free Nigeria, Prof. Obot said he developed interest in this area as result of a World Health Organization – sponsored study that he undertook in Jos.

He said the study led him to discover the emerging pattern of problematic alcohol and drug use among the residents at the time.

The Executive Director explained that apart from research, information, documentation and publications on substance abuse and its adverse effect on health of the users, the organization has in the last 30 years of existence, involved in organising conferences, symposia and sensitization programmes across the country, with the sole aim of providing access and assisting drug users through counselling, rehabilitation and treatment.

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Speaking further on the programmes and activities of the NGO, the Programme Manager, Mr. Nsidibe Francis, disclosed that CRISA has trained some government agencies and institutions such as the police, staff of the Nigeria Correctional Service, among others, with a view to strengthening collaboration among these institutions and agencies in helping substance users become useful to themselves.

According to him, “CRISA has been collaborating with government agencies. For this year, we will collaborate with the Akwa Ibom State Government to sensitize the youth, especially as elections draw near.

“Substance abuse poses more of humanitarian problems than criminal’s. CRISA is looking at helping drug users access treatment, rather than incarceration”.

The Programme Manager revealed that though CRISA has been operating in a Drop-in Centre as its temporary treatment accommodation since 2016, the organization has forged ahead with tremendous positive impacts on the youth population of the country that would have added to the myriads of problems of the nation.

“We have been operating a treatment centre since 2016. This is where over the 700 substance users were treated. It is our temporary place for counselling and treatment. We are working to build a one-stop facility which will house our research offices, library, treatment centre; which will accommodate personnel, visiting scholars, researchers and all who wish to make inquiries”.

“CRISA is involved with policy and directing agencies for drug control, governments, multilateral organizations and regional groups and blocks, contributing needed delicate information on issues of mutual interest. We are now a global player on knowledge production, publication and dissemination, and has gained the confidence of counterpart agencies”.

Mr. Francis said as a strategic move to achieve more results, the organization has been partnering with the World Health Organization, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, UNODC, Open Society Foundation, European Union, among other global and regional blocs concerned with alcohol, drugs and tobacco regulation, control and policy formulation.

The Programme Manager noted that the 30 years of existence of CRISA in Africa has placed the organization in a vintage position to become more proactive in providing help to substance users.

He hinted that CRISA would focus on prevention campaigns in secondary schools and other institutions as a strategy to address substance use from the very foundational level.

Mr. Francis said the organisation is opened to collaboration and support from government, individuals, agencies and relevant bodies for it to do more in counselling, rehabilitation and treatment of substance users in the country.