Codeine Abuse: Mis-Shaping The Future Of Nigerian Youths, By Usama Dandare

Drug abuse can be define as an unwarranted patterned consumption of any natural or synthetic substance or drug in an unapproved quantity for performance enhancement and psychological effect for non-therapeutic, non-medical use by an individual with methods neither approved nor supervised by medical professionals.

When drug abuse becomes a necessity for maintaining psychological and emotional equilibrium, it is called Drug Addiction. Drugs corrode the basic structure of a whole society, by affecting a cultured human society in all aspects including destabilizing families, reducing human productivity, corrupting trustworthy governments and honest police, and demoraling law respecting citizens.

Globally, over 200 million people consume some form of illicit drugs raging from Cannabis, Opium to synthetic “designer” drugs like Ecstasy, Codeine, Lizard Dung, Office Pins, Barbiturate derivatives, Benzodiazepines like Alprazolam, Diazepam, Amphetamines, Phenethylamine and Tryptamine derivatives; different forms of drugs are available for inducing euphoria.

Sadly, Nigeria is ranked 4th on the global ranking of countries with the most widespread use of illegal substances according to 2014 United Nation World Drug Report. The report revealed that the North-West constitutes 37.47% of drug victims in Nigeria followed by the South-West with about 17.32%, the South-East came third with 13.5%, the North-Central has about 11.71% while the troubled North-East constituted the remaining 8.54% of drug users in the country.

Youths on the other hand occupy a delicate and sensitive position within the population structure of any society for several reasons. The Nigeria law for example recognizes that an individual below the age of seven is incapable of committing a crime and an individual between seven and twelve years should be able to know what he ought not to do that is if it can be proved he does not know and he also isn’t criminally responsible for his acts. Between the ages of twelve and seventeen, a person is regarded as a juvenile, and while he may be held responsible for his acts or omission he is treated specially under the law by the children and young persons Acts instead of the criminal procedure act. Youth is the period between child hood and Adult age, and that is exactly the age Drug Barons prefer to recruit for drug trafficking (age: 15-35years) most of whom are either unskilled, unschooled or student or the jobless.

The menace of drug abuse has now taken a formidable dimension whereby our youths indulged in a new modus of attaining a drug-induced stimulation ‘getting high’ and sorrowfully, the new dimension is nothing but that of “Codeine Phosphate” – a medication ment to cure cough and cold-related ailments but surprisingly, codeine has turned out to be a favourite euphoria to many.

Cough syrup, with or without codeine, is used for the treatment of coughing and related ailments. But in Nigeria today (specifically the northern region), cough syrup, particularly with codeine – which is to derived from Opium Poppy and is related to Morphine and Heroin – is being abused by youths, men, women and even the elderly.

Whenever the word “drug abuse” is mention anywhere in this world, the only substances that will come to light are narcotics like cocaine, heroin, marijuana and other commonly abused substances but the last thing one would ever expect is for cough syrup “with codeine” ment for medication to be mentioned in the same breath as the aforementioned substances.

This ugly trend of abusing cough syrup was first introduced by American hip-hop rappers and penetrated it way through other nations especially African countries due to the way and manner in which we (Africans) tends to follow the lifestyle of black Americans. It was formally known as ‘sizzurp’ in America: a combination of cough syrup with preferably candy and/or any soft drink to attain a significant stage of glee.

This cough syrup contains codeine and promethazine and unfortunately, a lot of impressionable Nigerians have started taking the harmful mixture and is now growing dernier cri among young Nigerians and even the elderly were not spared in most cases, as codeine has become the fastest means of inducing frenzy. To make matters worst, codeine syrup isn’t only abuse by men but married and unmarried women as well as primary and secondary school children were not left out, top government officials including politicians and civil servants were also reported to be patronizing the harmful substance. Unknown to them, the dangers of overdosing codeine syrup far outweighs the short period euphoria it gives.

Codeine as an alkaloid analgesic drug and a derivative of opium is proved to have similar pharmacological effect as cocaine and heroin, though at a lesser degree because it is relatively less habit-forming. It falls under category of weak opioid, it was also discovered to be a veritable source of drug abuse by some exuberant youths and fun seekers who know about its morphine content.

The effect of codeine among Nigerian youths has been a subject of a morally bankrupt, moribund, debauched and wasted generation that must be reinvigorated and move as one in order to prevent the unwanted complete declination and loss of our societal values, norms and ideas. It’s on the nose to know the main einstein behind destroying the future of our talented youths and address it squarely because we can not just fold our arms and cowardly watch the menace of drug abuse condemning the future of our society, in which a vast number of youths ignorantly engaged in drug abuse for various reasons being them social, educational, financial, political and moral.

Codeine has become a favourite for many drug addicts because it is very easy to obtain either over the counter or through prescription at big and small medicine stores. The main reasons for using codeine include experiencing the euphoric effects associated with opiates, just as they averred that it is common practice for young people wishing to obtain a high to drink an overdose of cough syrup straight. In Kano and Jigawa states alone, more than three million bottles of codeine syrup are consumed on a daily basis. In fact, the high demand of codeine syrup in the country makes it too expensive and scarce just as it rocketed from a price of less than N200 to between N800-N1000 depending on the product. Users often mix it with water or soft drink of their choices before drinking while others take it raw and instead of taking just a table spoon as medical experts recommended, the abusers take several bottles daily and down two to three bottles straightaway.

“There are relatively few benefits associated to the use of codeine as a combination to other therapeutics” according to medical experts. Of course, one of its major problems is its addictive symptom, which is traceable to its morphine content”. Other effect of codeine, according to experts is euphoria, which is the feeling of excitement induced by the abuse of codeine-based preparation and can often lead to depression.

Investigations also shown that consumption of beer does not pose as serious threat to the community as the new intoxicant (codeine syrup) that have found acceptance across wide segments of society. And because the sale of beer is more common, it is easier to regulate unlike codeine and other widely abused substances. High dose of codeine, as claimed by users, makes them higher than that of beer or marijuana.

There are several factors that contribute to the abuse of cough syrup  among Nigerian youths: peer group, parental background (broken home), emotional stress to mention just a few.
Firstly, a peer group is a form of societal influence on affected youths. For example, a friend can be greatly influenced to be a drug addict if allowed to interact with drug addicts, young and old. He can be tempted on one fateful day to join the bad wagon of his friends, thereby gradually ruining his career in life.

Secondly, the parental background of a child can also result to over dependence of drugs among the affected youths. Due to various family problems like broken homes (divorces) polygamous family, abject poverty, cultural influence, parental neglect, lack of parental affection and responsibility; a father that is a drug addict may greatly influence any of his children likewise an addicted Mother. There have been reports of cases where young children pickup the habit of abusing codeine syrup from their addicted mothers, several reports also stated that women do mix various concoctions of cough syrups with codeine during ceremonies and share it among themselves and when drunk on these concoctions, they find  it easier to engage in anti social behavior without any shyness.

Thirdly, naturally some group of teenagers are emotionally stressed but instead for them to seek for a proper medical attention because a stitch in time saves many, they will result to self medications which is a conceptual relic of drug abuse, thereby using hard drugs for such corrections.

The various consequences of the codeine abuse in Nigeria or drug addictions in general are so devastating and very shameful to the extent that the whole world is focusing on Nigerians, among which are:- Social violence among youths, armed robbery, mental disorder, 419, syndrome, social miscreants (area boys and girls), lawlessness among youth, lack of respect for elders, rape and several other crimes.

Our governmental and private businesses are increasingly recognizing the negative consequences of codeine abuse on the Nigerian economy and the Nation’s workforce. Due to it high demand, codeine is costly for our society and if left untreated, it places a burden on our workplace, our healthcare system, and our communities. A number of reports and surveys highlight the detrimental effects codeine abuse has on business productivity and competitiveness as it also increases workplace injuries and absenteeism.

Codeine abuse has an immediate impact on the body and mind, it can also affect your future and your relationship with others. When codeine use becomes an important part of your life, your relationships suffer. You would behave more violently for the access of money for your need for drug. Conflict and breakdowns in communication would become a routine. Addiction to codeine would affect your ability to concentrate and focus at work, it side effects like hangover feeling can reduce the ability to focus and poor performance at work can make you lose your job.

Excessive intake of codeine syrup increases chances of being in dangerous situations and compromise the safety of self and others, under the influence of codeine, you drive roughly in excitement and as such you are compromising the safety of yourself and other road users.
Codeine addiction can become an expensive affair to the family due to it costly nature. In extreme situations, people addicted to codeine try anything from selling household goods to illegal activities like theft and robbery just to secure some money to get their next bottle. Codeine addicts also tend to behave violently for the need of money with family members, often ending up with crimes like murder.
Spending most of your money on codeine would make you poor and leave no money to cover the basic living expenses like rent, food, or utility bills.

There are also numerous health detriments associated with excessive use of codeine: in the human Brain and Spinal, codeine can cause mental and respiratory depression, stupor, delirium, somnolence, and dysphoria. An increased risk of falls and hip fractures has been associated with codeine therapy, particularly in the elderly. It also causes excessive sedation, drowsiness, fatigue, paradoxical excitation, and decreased motor coordination. Others include withdrawal symptoms after either abrupt cessation or fast tapering of narcotic analgesics like codeine, and have included agitation, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, tremor, abdominal cramps, blurred vision, vomiting and sweating. Codeine overdose can sometimes resulted into fever, altered consciousness, autonomic dysfunction, muscle rigidity, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome which is associated with a case fatality rate of about 20%.

In the heart and blood vessels, codeine overdose can cause: hypotension and dizziness, rarely observed tachycardia, bradycardia, and transient hypotension. Prolongation of the QT interval, heart block, and malignant arrhythmias have also been reported when in contact with other phenothiazines (medications used to treat serious mental and emotional disorders).

In the intestinal organs, excessive codeine intake causes: nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Severe constipation and ileus resulting in colonic perforation have been also reported. Higher percentage of codeine in human reproductive organs can also caused urinary retention.

Continuous consumption of Codeine can pose a serious defect to the hair, nails and skin of the affected individuals with some irritating rashes, and codeine-induced rash may be related to direct stimulation of histamine release.
Excess amount of codeine can also affect the kidney with acute renal failure (which may respond to naloxone therapy).

There are several other undesirable reactions resulting from codeine abuse such as rare rash, pruritus, hypertension, photosensitivity, and tachycardia to mention just a few. People with liver and renal disease are strongly advice to stay a thousand miles away from codeine abuse because in general, the adverse effects of codeine are more likely and more severe in people having liver and renal problems.

In order to check-mate the escalating crime wave linked with drug abuse and to curve the increasing menace of abusing cough syrup in Nigeria especially the northern region, the federal and states government needs a firefighter approach to drastically halt unauthorized sale and buying of the drug by placing tougher sanctions or if possible proscribe the production and distribution of cough syrups containing codeine nationwide unless for medical purposes. The government should also embarked on a publicity awareness campaign, using the local media, youth groups, student unions, traditional and religious leaders to fight the wildfire menace of codeine abuse in the country.

On our own part, there is a great need for us to collaborate and discourage the younger generations on the harmful effects of codeine, a collective collaboration with religious institutions, parents and teachers to check-mate the danger associated with this trend is of paramount importance in fighting the undesirable effects of cough syrup abuse. Manufacturers and dealers of codeine-based remedies should be made to face the full wrath of the law if found thwarting any of the rule and a new discouraging marketing strategy is also needed to convince users that the products are more dangerous than the non-codeine products.

The dangers in codeine syrup abuse are miasmatic that can annihilate our entire moral and ethnic values, it can further lamentably debris the future of any given society in a more pernicious scenario than other commonly abused drugs and can go to an extent of bamboozling the overall structural frame of reference of the affected society by mis-shaping the future of it youths. And unless careful and drastic measures are put in place, only then Nigeria will move in the right path and arrive at the desired focal-point in our development.

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