Drug abuse is common among secondary school students, undergraduates, youths, commercial bus drivers, farmers and sex workers. Examples of drugs that are often abused include cannabis, cocaine, heroin, diazepam, tramadol, codeine and methamphetamine hydrochloride. In this article, focus is placed particularly on codeine and methamphetamine hydrochloride as they have both made the news headlines in recent times for their infamous popularity as the most abused of drugs in Nigeria at the moment.
To put issues in proper perspective, it may interest you to know that14.4% of Nigerians engage in drug abuse. This was revealed in a recent statement by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes which further admits that the burden of drug abuse in Nigeria is becoming menacing.
Codeine is an opiate and pro-drug of morphine used in the treatment of mild and moderate pain and cough. Its breakdown into morphine takes place in the liver and how quickly this occurs is dependent on the consumer’s genetics. It is taken orally.
METH (METHAMPHITAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE):
Methamphitamine Hydrochloride is known by the following slang names: ‘glass’, ‘blade’, ’meth’, ‘crystal meth’, ‘crystal’, ‘quartz’, ‘ice’, ‘speed’, ‘kryptonite’ and the most recent ‘mkpurummiri’ predominantly used in south-eastern Nigeria.
Meth is a potent central nervous system stimulant that is mainly used as a recreational drug and less commonly as a second-line treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and obesity. It could be swallowed, smoked, inhaled or injected.
SOURCES OF THESE DRUGS:
Abusers could obtain these drugs from pharmacies, patent medicine stores, open drug markets, drug peddlers (including traditional drug hawkers), fellow drug abusers, friends and drug pushers.
REASONS FOR DRUG ABUSE:
Poor socio-economic factors and low educational background are common risk factors for drug abuse. However, other reasons for drug abuse include:
- Keeping awake (especially for students preparing for exams).
- Increased physical performance
- To derive pleasure
- Peer pressure
NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF CODEINE AND METHAMPHETAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE
First and foremost, these drugs are both very addictive. With every intake, the user’s psychology and body system are wired to want some more. Consequently, users usually end up taking over dose. Continuous indulgence results in abnormal behaviors, mental disorder and in worst cases, ultimately to death.
Due to their addictive natures, trying to stop taking these drugs, especially for chronic users, leads to withdrawal symptoms. Without getting professional help from a Certified Psychiatrist, users are prone to discomfort until they go back to its consumption. The side effects of codeine use include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Lightheadedness and drowsiness
- Breathing difficulty
- Urinary retention
The side effects of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride use include:
- Increased blood pressure and breathing rate
- Elevated body temperature
- Heavy sweating
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Paranoia or irritability
- Unpredictable behavior
- Doing repetitive, meaningless tasks
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea
- Dry mouth, loss of teeth, bad breath (meth mouth)
- Uncontrollable clenching of the jaw
- Violent behavior
- Heart attack from persistent elevated heart rate leading to death.
HOW TO IDENTIFY A DRUG ABUSER
Signs of someone with drug addiction include but not limited to:
- Always picking on hair or skin
- Shabby looks
- Moving eyes about every time
- Strange sleeping patterns – staying up for days or even weeks at a time
- Always talking
- Borrowing money often, selling possessions or stealing
- Angry outbursts or mood swings
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Psychotic behavior such as paranoia and hallucinations
WHAT CAN BE DONE
A massive burden like this cannot be resolved by one person (the user) alone but should involve various other players. These other players include immediate family members, community, religious bodies, physicians and government.
FOR THE DRUG USER:
Ingestion of these drugs will give effects that will never last for a life time. Looking at the earlier listed side effects of these drugs shows that it will only end badly if the right decision to not only quit but to seek help is not made on time. It is usually a difficult decision to make especially with the resultant withdrawal symptoms. However, overcoming drug abuse begins with the decision to quit.
FOR THE FAMILY:
The immediate family plays a huge role especially in our Nigerian society. It is said that an individual’s character is a reflection of the family from where he/she emerges. Words of encouragement in the face of despair, sensitizing the youths about the ills of bad company, paying close attention to members of the family and identifying red flags go a long way in curbing the menace
FOR THE COMMUNITY:
Decisions by community leaders have an impact on what goes on in their immediate environment. In South-Eastern Nigeria, individuals found to be abusing meth (‘mkpurummiri’) are publicly flogged. Even though this method appears draconian, it is intended to serve as a deterrent to others. However, the negative side to this approach is that the real care needed by the drug abuser is rather sidelined. Efforts should rather be made by communities to ensure that such drugs are not made available in their region and that youths are adequately enlightened about the dangers of drug abuse. They should rehabilitate drug abusers and support them while they are receiving care.
FOR RELIGIOUS BODIES:
Africa is predominantly a very religious continent. As a matter of fact, many individuals respect instructions of religious leaders more than the family or even government. Therefore, religious leaders should by all means use their platforms to sensitize the people against drug abuse. They can also create support groups for former drug abusers to share their experiences and recovery stories to foster a sense of belonging and acceptance.
FOR THE PHYSICIAN:
The physician is a valuable member in the rehabilitation process. Treatment for withdrawal symptoms among other care strategies is to be employed in the rehabilitation centres. It takes time and patience as no two individuals are the same. Even after leaving the rehabilitation center, following up on progress should be done in person or online.
FOR THE GOVERNMENT:
The government of the day has a major role to play in ending the scourge of drug abuse in the country. Some of the ways to do this is through the following:
- Improve on the curriculum in schools where drug abuse is taught
- Pass laws that make drug trafficking unattractive.
- Improve on existing laws to enhance the functions of agencies that have to deal with the regulation of drug manufacturing and distribution in the country.
- Provide affordable, functional and well-equipped rehabilitation centers which should be run in conjunction with religious bodies and the community.
- Create more jobs for the teaming population of unemployed youths.
A lot has been done in the past in setting up agencies like the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) which is tasked with the fight against drug trafficking; and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) who among various functions regulates the production and distribution of food and drugs in the country. In recent times, the production and distribution of codeine have been banned in the country.
The NDLEA has also made it easier for individuals or groups to report cases of drug trafficking or abuse on their official site: http://ndlea.gov.ng/submit-an-eye-withness-report/
Though initially intended for medical use, codeine and methamphetamine hydrochloride have become drugs that are incessantly abused. All hands must be on deck to combat the trend of drug abuse in Nigeria.