Nigeria’s economic crisis and the laughing stock of the local youth

Nigeria’s economic crisis and the laughing stock of the local youth

Written by Kenneth Sawyer, In finance, Published On
January 23, 2024

In its “Global Economy Outlook H1 2023” report, KPMG has published the alarming data that has been suspected for some time. Nigeria’s ever-increasing unemployment rate stood at an incredible 37.7% at the end of 2022 and is forecast to rise to 40.6% by the end of 2023. The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) report on the macroeconomic outlook for 2023 also predicts that the national poverty rate will rise to almost 45% in 2023. While these figures may be mere statistics to many, they are brutal realities for many Nigerian youths who have been out of work for years and who have been hit hardest by the country’s collapsing economy.

Nigeria’s economic crisis

In recent years, Nigeria has experienced two major economic recessions, and today economic growth is much slower than necessary to feed the country’s 200 million people. This slow economic growth is also unable to absorb the nearly five million young people who enter the labour market every year after completing tertiary education. These young people make up the bulk of the unemployed and underemployed statistics.

The nitrous oxide peaks

As opportunities to earn a living in this country dwindle, many young people have limited opportunities to pursue employment. While some young people indulge in the dubious pleasures of Stay Casino gambling to escape the reality of hard times for a moment, others seek their escape in the rampant consumption of nitrous oxide. Check out to discover more:

Nitrous oxide is actually intended for patients undergoing dental surgery. However, the odourless and colourless gas is now a popular recreational drug among young people in Nigeria and other countries around the world. The drug is supplied in large canisters and then inflated into balloons, which are consumed by sniffing the air that escapes from the balloons to ultimately get high on the substance. The high leads to a calming effect, and this euphoric feeling sends users into a kind of laughing fit, from which this substance also derives its name “laughing gas”.

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This momentary escape is short-lived, although it sets in quickly. In order to continue experiencing the euphoric feelings, addicts have to keep inhaling the gas from the balloons in question.

The nitrous oxide lows

Nigeria's economic crisis

Those doctors who use nitrous oxide repeatedly claim that the drug has no disturbing side effects. However, it is being used less and less in clinics due to side effects such as memory impairment and disorientation. The gas is also administered with oxygen in order to minimise the possible side effects.

However, the abuse of nitrous oxide can also lead to unconsciousness, hallucinations, seizures and, in extreme cases, death. Research shows that long-term consumption of N20 leads to vitamin B12 deficiency, among other neurological damage.

This information is not known to most youths in Nigeria who abuse the drug and in most cases do not care. Worse still, those who are aware are not willing to stop taking nitrous oxide as it gives them a few moments of hope that takes their minds off the brutal reality of the many ills in Nigeria.

In addition, nitrous oxide is not a cheap drug. Since a canister of nitrous oxide costs about 100,000 nairas from most suppliers of the drug, most youths have to pool their minimal financial resources to afford one of these containers, blow up a balloon or two and pass it on to like-minded people. This constant cycle of abuse ensures that most young people can barely afford basic necessities such as shelter, clothing and food.

The ugly face of the never-ending economic crisis

Nigeria's economic crisis

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, food inflation in Nigeria reached a new high of 30.64% in September 2023. This means that it has become difficult for ordinary Nigerians, even with a secure income, to purchase basic food items for themselves and their families. Consequently, it is also a challenge to afford the cost of travelling to work as fuel prices are around 700 naira per litre. The average Nigerian worker lives from pay cheque to pay cheque and is burdened with loans to make ends meet. The situation of unemployed youths in Nigeria is even worse.

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Nigeria’s current inflation rate is 26%, the highest in 18 years. As the Naira continues to fall and the country continues to service high and expensive loans, the economic crisis seems to get worse before it gets better. This depressing state of the country is the driving force behind the Nigerian youth’s search for drugs as a way out and with it comes the increased popularity of nitrous oxide as a source of joie de vivre.

All is not lost in the fight against drug abuse, however, as the Nigerian National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) says it has made great strides in curbing nitrous oxide use in 2023. The non-governmental organisation has launched campaigns in schools to raise awareness about the abuse of N20 – students are considering using the drug, with some seen inhaling it in live videos. The NDLEA’s media director also claims that the authority is using social media to inform even more young people about the effects of nitrous oxide.

In addition to raising awareness of the dangers of nitrous oxide abuse, container ships from China have been repeatedly intercepted in recent months, which would have brought over 8,000 canisters and 64,000kg of nitrous oxide into the country.

The national agency is confident that it will prevent more youths from abusing drugs and reduce the statistics of over a third of Nigerian youths currently involved in drug abuse.


In summary, Nigeria finds itself in the grip of a profound economic crisis, and the repercussions are acutely felt by the country’s youth, who bear the brunt of soaring unemployment rates and a collapsing economy. The alarming statistics presented by KPMG and the NESG paint a grim picture of the current situation, with unemployment projected to reach staggering levels, and the national poverty rate expected to rise significantly.

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For many Nigerian youths, the harsh reality of persistent joblessness has led to desperate measures, such as seeking solace in the use of nitrous oxide – a recreational drug that offers a temporary escape from the hardships of life. This troubling trend underscores the depth of despair among the younger population, who face limited opportunities for gainful employment and grapple with the daily challenges of making ends meet.

The abuse of nitrous oxide, once a dental anesthetic, highlights a concerning avenue for escapism. The drug, while providing momentary euphoria and laughter, comes with severe health risks and potential long-term consequences. The lack of awareness or indifference to these dangers among the youth adds another layer of complexity to an already dire situation.

The economic crisis’s ugly face manifests not only in the drug abuse epidemic but also in the escalating food inflation rates and soaring fuel prices, making it increasingly difficult for even employed individuals to afford basic necessities. The paycheck-to-paycheck existence and the burden of loans weigh heavily on the average Nigerian worker, amplifying the challenges posed by the economic downturn.

As Nigeria grapples with the never-ending economic crisis, urgent and comprehensive measures are needed to address the root causes of unemployment, spur economic growth, and provide avenues for meaningful opportunities for the youth. The current trajectory, marked by desperation and escapism, demands a concerted effort from government, society, and individuals alike to pave the way for a brighter and more sustainable future for the nation and its youth.

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