The outcry on the increase in addiction to drugs such as tramadol and codeine among Nigerian youths has reached the ‘top’. As Nigeria bans cough syrup with codeine, the question many are asking is will this help?
According to BBC, A health ministry spokesman announced that the remaining stock in shops could be sold with a prescription. The BBC investigation showed the syrup being sold on the black market and used by young Nigerians to get high. It recorded a number of pharmaceutical figures selling the drug illegally.
Olajide Oshundun, the Ministry of Health’s assistant director of information, said the ban was a result of months of work by a committee.
The joint probe by the BBC’s new investigation unit, Africa Eye, and BBC Pidgin prompted a swift response from people across the country, including Nigeria’s first lady, Aisha Buhari, who said in an Instagram post she was “deeply saddened” by the rise of the problem, especially in the northern part of Nigeria.
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“I call on all security agencies, lawmakers, judiciary, drug manufacturers, civil society, regulators, teachers, parents, neighbours and you to take this as a personal war and halt the menace,” she added.
The Nigerian Senate estimates that as many as three million bottles of codeine syrup; are drunk every single day in just two states, Kano and Jigawa.
Why Do Teens Use Drugs?
There are various reasons why teens use drugs. While the action taken with Nigerian banning cough syrup with codeine is one move in the right direction. There needs to be a wider understanding and fight against the use of drug abuse.
According to research published in the Journal of Public Health Research on the ‘Prevalence of Drug Abuse Amongst University Students in Benin City, Nigeria’ in 2016, a group of researchers; Adeyemo Florence, Ohaeri Beatrice, Pat Okpala and Ogodo Oghale agreed that abuse is becoming an increasingly disturbing problem in the region.
Youths depend on one form of drug or the other such as tobacco, Indian hemp, cocaine, morphine, heroine, alcohol, ephedrine, madras, caffeine, glue, barbiturates and amphetamines for their various daily activities.
There are several reasons teens reportedly use drugs. Some of these range from stress, problems at home or school, to peer influence and more. However, one prevalent factor is the influence of the media and artists that are seen as role models.
The Influence of Role Model
According to Franklin, while in his final year in secondary school, he got influenced by his celebrity idol. The artist who would come on screen with beverage bottles, talk fluently, and sometimes mention how he gets inspiration through highness.
Franklin soon realised what his idol carries about in his bottle is a mixture of opioids and beverages. This looked absolutely glamorous to him and so he tried it out. He loved the feel and that is how Franklin, from a well to do responsible home got hooked to tramadol and codeine.
Franklin shared that surprisingly, no member of his family knows till date he is into drugs. “I often mash it into soft drinks, and no one has noticed in my house”. He shared that not even his mum who is very interactive and observant.
A music producer, shared that many teenagers and young adults in Nigeria have gone into drugs because they heard their super stars talk about it. They talk about how drugs give them inspiration and make them confident to mount stages to entertain crowds.
“You see them openly smoking and drinking in their musical videos. Fans adore these guys to the point they want to do what they are doing. I can tell you for sure many young Nigerians are into drugs because their superstars openly glamourise it. They make it seem cool”.
Parents need to ensure they are not also glamorising the wrong role model.
How can Parents Prevent Drug Addiction in Children
To help your child avoid becoming addicted to drugs the first step is for parents to be able to identify the possible signs of drug use. One of the best ways is to make sure any unusual behaviour in your child has an explanation. You are the best observers of unusual behaviour, not the school, not your doctor and not other authority figures. If you aren’t sure whether something is a sign of addiction, do a drug test.
Communicating with your child is key. Parents are therefore encouraged to start educating their children early and not wait until they are either tempted or introduced to drugs.
According to a study of Selected Secondary Institutions, most disturbing was the fact that the study showed that 31.4 per cent of students surveyed had a positive perception of drug abuse, meaning that they did not find anything wrong with taking or abusing drugs.
The commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Mr. Imohimi Edgal cautioned parents not to expose their children to excess money. “By the time your child of 14 or 15 years, he or she is already controlling N200,000 or N300,000 as pocket money, apart from school fees, what do you expect the child to be doing. Mentally will she/he be able to control that freedom?”
Parents have to be aggressive to fight this issue. The consequences of drug abuse are enormous, while the youths might not see it immediately. There are too many stories of children who tried drugs once. They became hooked and are now in rehabilitation centres struggling to live a normal life.
A route to escape pain?
There is a report in the high incidences of girls and the growing love for tramadol and cough syrup. The Nigerian Senate, recently, raised an alarm over the increasing use of substance by girls and women in Nigeria. Some of these girls see it as means for escapism.
Research by an NGO, Saving Youths, showed that there is a growing use of tramadol, cough syrups, and shisha, among young girls in Nigeria. They believed some girls have even induced their mothers to the use of these cough syrups as an escape from abusive relationships.
According to a study conducted in four Northern universities most opioids are mixed with beverages.
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This war against drug abuse requires everyone to put hands on deck and fight together. Parents have the largest part to play. We also need our schools to be tough on substance abuse. The Government needs to play its part and law enforcement.
It is too grave a matter to leave it to chance.