In recent years, Nigeria has developed a reputation as a hub for international drug trafficking. Law enforcement officials say that Nigerian criminal organisations are involved in the transportation of narcotics such as cocaine, heroin and increasingly methamphetamine to consumers in wealthy countries. Research indicates that Nigerian drug traffickers are adaptable, politically well-connected and sophisticated. They are able to independently move extremely large shipments through transit countries in West Africa and draw from a large Nigerian diaspora to facilitate distribution in Europe, North America and East Asia.
While abuse of illicit narcotics was described as a significant challenge, particularly in Rivers and Lagos, aside from marijuana, the most commonly used drugs were said to be over-the-counter prescription medications such as tramadol, codeine syrup, Exol and Rohypnol. These are all nominally controlled substances that are only supposed to be taken in moderation under the guidance and advice of medical professionals. However, the research indicates that these drugs are being misused and causing harmful effects and some are contributing to conflict by impairing the judgement of users who engage in violent confrontations.
The crisis in Nigeria has grew due to the affordability of various drugs of abuse including cannabis, heroin 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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