It is no longer news that the “codeine” containing cough syrup has to a great extent been abused excessively over the years in Nigeria, prompting the federal government to recently place a ban on codeine as a pharmaceutical agent.
This came a couple of hours after a documentary by the BBC on the abuse and effects of codeine in Nigeria, which highlighted the devastating effect and increasing level of self-medication and abuse of the drug mostly in the northern parts of Nigeria.
Although government’s action seemed to have been prompted by the BBC report, others had earlier raised the alarm over abuse of the substance.
Sometime in October 2017, the Nigerian Senate called for an investigation into the growing abuse of codeine cough syrup and other drugs, with a view to checking the menace said to be wide spread amongst youths in northern Nigeria.
Adopting a motion sponsored by senator Bashir Garbai from Bornu state and 37 other senators, the Senate noted that the misuse of these pharmaceutical drugs was plaguing the teeming population of youths in Northern Nigeria.
As at 2017, reports from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) showed that North West Nigeria has consistently had the highest number of drugs-related arrests in recent years, with 2,205 arrests in 2015. It was further noted that Kano and Jigawa states consume more than three million bottles of codeine syrup daily, as abusers take about three to eight bottles daily.
The increasing abuse of cough syrups and other prescribed drugs among the youth and women across the 19 northern states in the country has resulted in meaningless deaths, rendered many largely unproductive and has devastated many upper and middle class families in Northern Nigeria.
The increasing love for the codeine cough syrup doesn’t only apply to the northern part of Nigeria , or the youths alone. It has spread across the whole country like a wild fire eating up both young and old, married men and women, and unfortunately underage kids.
There are fears however that the government’s ban may not be enough to curb the menace of associated with abuse of substances, especially codein.
Firstly, over the years we’ve seen a couple of illicit drugs circulate in the market with absolutely no government check or control over them. Therefore the federal government should reconsider their position on the outright ban of codeine. Let’s think about marijuana, tramadol, rophynol, crack, etc. All these are illicit drugs, but they are in circulation, and daily consumed in Nigeria, and so far there’s nothing that can be done to stop or control its circulation in the country.
Secondly, the federal government should understand that if this ban takes place orally without any actions to back it up, it will end up driving the drug, the dealers, and the consumers into an underground market where things are going to get very terrible.
If three out of 36 states in Nigeria consume 3million bottles of codeine daily, how many bottles are consumed in Nigeria daily?
Thirdly, there is a ready market for illicit drugs in the country, and according to the Nigerian Stability and Resource Programme (NSRP), marijuana, exol, tramadol, codeine, solution (glue), cocaine and heroin are largely consumed in every state in Nigeria.
Fouthly, it’s well known that a lot of people, especially youths, turn to drugs, and other substances to escape reality of life, and their socio-economic situation. It will urgur well for the country, if government will put in more efforts to improve the economy, as many employable adults are out of jobs, or under-employed, driving them to seek release in form of alcohol, drugs and other substances.
So the ban of codeine which happens to be the most consumed and most demanded for by many addicts because of its sweet flavour and “trips” is about to open the floodgates of the largest black market for illicit drugs in Nigeria.
If the abuse of codeine is this high, and the business is still flourishing with the level of arrests of dealers and seizure of illicit drugs, that means there are people making huge amounts of money from the business and the government just gave them an avenue to enlarge their businesses and get richer.
Ironically, since the ban was made, the price of the syrup has automatically skyrocketed overnight, and that’s good business for these dealers.
The federal government of Nigeria, in addition to placing a ban on the use of codeine should also make provisions for drug rehabilitation (often called drug rehab or just rehab) centres all over the country. This rehabilitation would involve processes of medical or psychotherapeutic treatment for dependency on psychoactive substances such as alcohol, prescription drugs, and street drugs such as codeine, cocaine, heroin or amphetamines.
The general intent is to enable the patient confront substance dependence, if present, and cease substance abuse to avoid the psychological, legal, financial, social, and physical consequences that can be caused, especially by extreme abuse. Treatment includes medication for depression or other disorders, counselling by experts and sharing of experience with other addicts.
There are people out there that are willing to stop the use of these harmful drugs, but cannot find a way to quit it, if only the government can create a strong means of sensitization and reach out to these people that abuse drugs and back it up with drug addiction treatment pills, it will go a long way in saving thousands of Nigerian youths.
Provision of therapists and therapy centres for these addicts where they can have interactive sessions with therapists and fellow addicts, is a trustworthy method of helping addicts to stop compulsive drug seeking and use.
Government should also ensure control and regulation of the production and distribution of these addictive substances.
Until these concrete steps are taken, Nigerians may continue to wonder how many bottles of codein are actually in circulation and consumed daily.
If marijuana, a contraband commodity has been in circulation and consumed daily ever since, is the ban of codeine going to make people crave less for it?
By Ikem Nnorom…..
RipplesNigeria… without borders, without fears
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