Photo credit: Florida Prescription Addiction Helpline
It is a known fact that there is a drug problem across the world, especially among young people. There has been an outcry against the use of illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin. However, there is a new drug that seems to have spread all over Nigeria, and that new drug is the active agent in many cough syrups: CODEINE. This issue was brought even more to the forefront when Africa Eye, a new documentary strand under the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) carried out an undercover investigation into the outbreak of codeine abuse addiction all across Nigeria. The investigation which was carried out by BBC Pidgin journalist Ruona Meyer, revealed the covert sales of cough syrup by representatives of major pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria to drug dealers around the country, with one boasting of the ability to sell up to one million cartons of codeine-containing cough syrup a week. It was discovered that secondary school students and university undergraduates had become addicted to this drug and it was commonly used in birthday parties and night clubs.
Codeine is an opiate used as a cough suppressant and a pain reliever. However, it has a high potential for abuse and addiction due to its narcotic properties. It can therefore produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria, and can develop into a potentially deadly addiction.
When taken according to prescription, codeine is a safe drug and acts as a pain reliever and cough suppressant. However, when abused, codeine has both short and long-term effects. Short term effects include nausea and vomiting, dry mouth, constipation, excessive drowsiness and confusion. On the long run however, abuse of codeine can lead to life-threatening respiratory depression, seizures, liver failure, kidney failure amongst others.
In an attempt to curb this growing menace, local bodies and nonprofits are providing rehabilitation to addicts in various parts of Nigeria. Examples of such bodies include Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN), Jajircewa Group of Kwanar Dala and Youth Awareness Forum Against Drug Addiction (YAFODA).
It is important to know the signs of codeine addiction so as to aid early recognition and intervention. They include drowsiness, slurred speech, short attention span, impaired judgment, dilated pupils, lack of coordination, apathetic behavior.
The Nigerian government, in response to the agitation birthed by the documentary has placed a ban on the production, importation and use of codeine across the country. The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) also received a directive from the federal government to cease the distribution of permits for the importation of codeine by pharmaceuticals in the country. The federal government has also encouraged the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria to increase their efforts in monitoring the distribution of drugs and end drug abuse in the country. It is also important to educate young people on the dangers of the abuse of codeine and other drugs.