Nigeria’s Alarming Rise in Drug Addiction and Codeine Abuse

Among the younger generation in Nigeria there has been an alarming rise in drug addiction and drug trafficking. The growing concern in the country specifically regarding codeine abuse has resulted in a recent directive by the country’s Minister of Health to ban the sale of cough syrups containing codeine without prescription.

Codeine is a pain killer and an addictive opioid, typically used to treat mild to moderate degrees of pain but taken in excess it can cause schizophrenia and organ failure. The syrup used for cough medicine is made in Nigeria by more than 20 pharmaceutical companies, whilst the codeine drug itself is imported. In a recent raid, Nigeria’s drug enforcement agency seized 24,000 bottles of codeine syrup from a single lorry in Katsina. The Nigerian Senate has estimated that approximately three million bottles of codeine syrup are drunk every day in just two states, Kano and Jigawa.

The crisis in Nigeria has grew due to the affordability of various drugs of abuse including cannabisheroin and codeine, with the Guardian describing the situation as “much bigger than we can imagine”. The scale of the epidemic has resulted in a cry for Nigerians to unite in the fight against drug abuse following a recent documentary by the BBC that uncovered the depth of the problem.

To aid those affected by drugs of abuse, the National Epidemiological Network on Drug Use in Nigeria provides treatment centres across the country. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the most frequent drug abuse treatments are for cannabis (36.2%) and opiates (28.3%) including prescription medications; tramadol and codeine. Codeine addiction is a global crisis and Nigeria is not alone in the battle to end it.

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