The ban on codeine — an ingredient of cough syrup turned street drug by the Federal Government — has elicited mixed reactions across the country.
The government on May 1 stopped the issuance of permits for the importation of codeine as an active pharmaceutical ingredient for cough mixture preparation.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, who gave the directive, said the move became necessary due to the gross abuse of codeine in the country.
While some Nigerians believe the ban is a welcome development, others, however have called for a thorough investigation into the “illegal” production as well as distribution of the product.
As local pharmaceutical production remained barely unchecked by government, cough syrups are being produced on a large scale with corrupt staff taking advantage of the high demand on the black market to run parallel drug syndicates.
In 2016, an investigation by the Nigeria-based International Centre for Investigative Reporting, published by PREMIUM TIMES, showed how codeine and other substantives were threatening a generation of young Nigerians of Northern origin.
Here are 10 things to know about the widespread abuse of codeine in Nigeria:
- Codeine is a pain killer but also an addictive opioid. Taken in excess, it can cause Schizophrenia and organ failure among other health related defects.
- The massive patronage of the illicit codeine trade largely rests on the shoulders of teenagers, young adults insatiably looking for a quick high – the current growing trend in Nigeria. Surprisingly, young women take it more, including pregnant women.
- Though codeine is mostly imported, the syrup is made in Nigeria by more than 20 pharmaceutical companies.
- The price is pegged at between N1,000 and N1,200 per bottle, depending on the syrup mixed with the codeine. Serous addicts can consume as much as four bottles per day.
- Even though it is illegal to sell codeine cough syrups without a doctor’s prescription, the drug remain common. Its addicts mix it with soft drinks like coke and this can be taking anywhere under the guise that the consumer is just taking a soft drink – it is not as soft as it seems.
- The abuse of substances like codeine is more acute in the northern part of the country. A restriction on alcohol in the region has made youth in dire need of “highness” to turn to codeine, tramadol, rephnol and other cheap opioid-based drugs.
- Over three million bottles of codeine syrup are consumed daily in Kano and Jigawa states alone, according to the Nigerian Senate.
- Nigeria’s drug enforcement agency is fighting this epidemic. In a recent raid, it seized 24,000 bottles of codeine syrup from a single lorry in Katsina.
- The widespread abuse of codeine is also highly influenced by Nigerian musicians, who use their lyrics to promote the intake of such drugs as the ‘new cool’.
- When taken, codeine addicts feel dizzy, slow, numb and can even hallucinate.