*Demand For Codeine, Tramadol, Others Reach All-time High *Users Reveal How They Go Undetected By Their Parents *Experts Warn Against Imminent Narcotic Epidemic
By Ifeoma Ononye- July 15, 2017 0 367
When we watch foreign movies and television shows and see young people abroad using hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, we can’t help but be grateful that our children are not gone that way. Despite being labeled as one of the top drug peddlers across the world, Nigeria remains one of the lowest when it comes to cocaine and heroin usage.
The common argument is that these drugs are too expensive and far away from our youths’ reach. Also, we believe that our strict moral and religious teachings have kept our youths safe from drugs and only a few ‘wayward’ kids and transport operators are into the habit. This, according to new reports, is a wrong notion.
We are quick to equate hard drugs with cocaine and heroin. Meanwhile, your child may be high on hard drugs right now without you knowing it, yet they appear not to have ever touched any of those drugs.
The former Director General, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Mr. Otunba Ipinmisho, pointed out that “40 per cent of our youths are on one hard drug or the other, and that is disturbing.”
You may be fooled by our ‘clean’ streets without drug peddlers hanging around. The impression that our streets are free of addicts may just be a myth.
Forget cocaine, heroin and every other hard drugs out there that huge salaries cannot buy and think of simple Over The Counter (OTC) drugs that give relief to common cold, pain and depressions.
Come down to the level of cough syrup prescribed to relieve baby from a chesty cough. Many of them come with codeine. Guess what? Codeine is the new Indian Hemp.
Presently, young boys no longer depend on strong alcoholic drinks like spirits to get intoxicated. The adventure is to get pills that can keep the mind on hyperactive mode for as long as possible.
Most common cold relief syrups always come with codeine which makes the patient drowsy. The drowsiness is the attraction to these young men who are seeking to get to ‘cloud nine’ without drinking up to half a glass of alcohol or take ‘weed’.
Drugs like Rohypnol, Tramadol and cough syrups laced with codeine are on the top list of drugs abused by young men and teenagers.
Step into a party where young men and women are gathered, chances are that you will find many of them hugging plastic bottles filled with mixtures that include codeine or rohypnol (known on the streets as ‘refnol’
Speaking with a street drug vendor who pleaded anonymity, he said the first two drugs mentioned above have been restricted to prescription drugs due to the alarming rate of abuse amongst youngsters.
The scary thing about the situation is that most parents are ignorant of the abuse of over the counter drugs like the cough syrup with codeine. A child might be ingesting the drug right in front of you without you having a clue.
Unlike cocaine that can be sniffed or injected, codeine or refnol only needs to be mixed into a drink and drunk like any soft drink.
To deceive adults, some of these youths actually mix these drugs in bottles of soft drinks and carry it around as they sip it. Adults or parents will be none the wiser. Most parents end up blaming their ward’s unpredictable and erratic behavior on mere raging adolescent hormones.
Also, recent research has proved that the age of users are between 14 and 25 while there are more users in Northern Nigeria than in the South. Though more young men take part than women, there are also a large number of young girls who take these drugs.
A user, who is a young trainee architect based in Agege, Lagos, Musa, told Saturday Independent that he constantly takes codeine and sometimes, Tramadol.
On how he hides it for onlookers, he said: “I carry small flasks. Looking at the flask (lifting the flask) your guess will be its tea. This is the concussion of codeine some things I won’t tell you,” he said. He also disclosed that cola soft drinks like Pepsi and Coca-Cola bottles come in handy for the disguise because their original liquid content is dark in colour just like the codeine mixture. “Fanta and Miranda would be conspicuous, so I don’t use that,” he said.
An engineer, Ade, disclosed that one of the simple ways to find out is to be observant how long a suspect holds on to a single bottle of Coke. “Drinking a bottle of 50cl coke is not a detective job that takes forever. So, if you see a young man holding a bottle of Coke or Pepsi longer than expected, start suspecting foul play. Another thing to observe is how dark or light the colour of the content is,” he said.
The drug vendor, who spoke with Saturday Independent, lamented that because the demand for cough syrup with codeine is high, the price of the commodity has now gone up.
“Drugs like Bennylin with codeine used to be between N700 to N800 but now, you can only buy it as high as N1500,” she said.
A pharmacist, Lilian Iweanoge explained that Refnol (Rohypnol) is a sedative drug that induces sleep while Tramadol is a pain relief drug. They are meant to be used in small dosages. But “when one use the overdose, they can cause hallucination or a form of high sensation within the body system.”
The mother of three disclosed that teenagers are the main group that abuse codeine. She explained that because of the abuse, most companies hiked the price to reduce the number of young people that abuse these cough syrup but that has not done much in reducing the menace.
Speaking on how she handles a situation where more than one teenager visits her pharmacy to buy codeine, she said: “Middle-aged men don’t abuse codeine. It is teenagers that abuse codeine which is a cough syrup. I don’t sell more than two bottles to any young person. The idea is that any prescription you have, two bottles are enough to cover the dosage.
“Rohypnol is like valium. It is quite expensive and it is strictly a prescription drug. Aside from the abuse of the drugs, it is top on the list of drugs used to commit a crime. Young boys drug girls with it to take advantage of them and because it knocks the person out completely, the girl will not remember what transpired within the time she was out,” she said.
On the dangers of abusing drugs for a long time, Iweanoge, who is also a health caregiver, said that the liver is the first organ that suffers. She affirmed that overdosing on drugs for a long time puts pressure on the liver and results in liver failure.
From a mother to other parents, the pharmacist advised parents to watch their wards closely as they are introduced to these drug abuse by their peers.
Saturday Independent went to see how easy it is to buy codeine from the pharmacy and what we found out was shocking. Out of eight drug stores visited, only one asked for a doctor’s prescription. We also sent in a young man of 13 to buy a bottle from four pharmacies and he was able to buy the drugs from all four without being questioned.
One young man who was also buying the product when our reporter was trying to buy one, was advising our him (the reporter) to buy a specific brand because it has more “action”, most likely referring to the codeine content.
It has been discovered that some drug brands are even increasing the amount of codeine in their brand of cough syrup in order to get more patronage. Hence, there are cheaper cough mixtures specifically for addicts and not for those suffering from a cough.
Asking further questions about the abuse of drugs like Rohypnol popularly called Refnol, a businessman and a father of three, Okoli, in Kaduna, said spiking drinks with Refnol used to be a way of life before he stopped it.
Okoli, who was in his late 20s, admitted that he and his friends would mix two sachets of Refnol, which contains 20 tablets, in a bottle of sans soda and sipping on it for hours. He says that it kept them hyperactive for a long time.
Explaining the kind of behavior expected from someone that is high on such drugs, he said that he knew he had hit rock bottom with the drug abuse when he slapped a police DPO in Malali police station in Kaduna.
“When I slapped the DPO and the police officers there grabbed me, I knew I messed up but could not fully coordinate the gravity of what I had done until they put me behind bars. I was later bailed by a prominent man in the neighborhood,” he said
Now a family man, Okoli said that nothing about drug abuse is good. He recalled that back then, just as he was an addict of Refnol, some other young boys sniff gum like Red Dragon that vulcanisers use to patch tires.
He further disclosed that he has mingled with people that abuse codeine and they used to drink as much as five bottles in three hours.
Another user of codeine said: “Drinking few bottles of codeine makes everything around you slow but you remain the same. It gives you a sense of freedom and superiority.”
All the experts we spoke with advised the government to take action. Cough syrups remain on Over The Counter (OTC) drugs and can be purchased without a prescription. Parents too need to be vigilant and aware of their ward’s mood and actions.