By Chioma Obinna
Unrestricted access to medicines through the open drug and inadequate regulatory enforcement markets have remained the root cause of rampant drug misuse and abuse in the society, community pharmacists have said.
The pharmacists also noted that the incessant postponement by Federal Government of the closure of open drug market places and full implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines, NDDG, will further aggravate the situation.
Chairman of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, Lagos State branch, ACPN, Pharm. Abiola Paul-Ozieh urged the Federal Government to keep to the December 2018 deadline for closing all open drug markets.
Speaking during the 2018 Annual General Meeting of the Association during which the Campaign against Drug Abuse in Lagos communities was relaunched, Paul-Ozieh charged stakeholders to take collective action to make the deadline realisable.
“As long as we have the open drug market places, as long as people walk into anywhere, hawk drugs, we will always have issues with drug abuse. You can imagine how many times closure of open drug market has been postponed; now we are saying by December it will be totally out. We are praying it will happen.
It is left for stakeholders to see how we can get rid of uncoordinated system of drug distribution and install a sane distribution system where people can get drugs that are documented and can even be traced to the last user of the medicines.”
Re-launching war against drug abuse with banners that would be placed in all community pharmacies across the state, she stated: “Through the banners, we will warn the entire community that drug abuse kills. We want our youths to come out of drug abuse. Those that need help, we will link them to facilities where they will undergo rehabilitation procedures and that way, they will be reintegrated back to the society. All hands need to be on deck.”
Paul-Ozieh said her team had put pharmacists on the right path as regards pharmaceutical care to help patients identify drug therapy issues. “Pharmacists are now exposed to current trends to render more care to the patients and ultimately improve the health outcome of the patients.”
She urged the Federal Government to reconstitute the Board of the Pharmacists Council, lamenting that 2018 will mark the third year without a substantive Board.
Also speaking, Chairman, Board of Trustees, ACPN Lagos, Pharm. Deji Osinoke, raised the alarm that drug abuse has reached chaotic dimension in the country.
He regretted that the body, for many years, has been warning the government about the problem, blaming the situation on what he described as ‘chaotic drug distribution.
“You can see that everybody handles drug in Nigeria and drugs are special items and not like any other article. If you are not trained, you will not know its efficacy. Your own motive will just be to make profits. It is not good for the rest of the population. This drug abuse is very rampant now like codeine and tramadol.
“People buy codeine syrup and take the whole bottle. Now, these drugs are being distributed in parties. This is not good because codeine itself is very potent.
“It can damage the liver. This is a mitotic poison when taken in excess but people don’t know about that but they feel they are in trade.
He charged law enforcement agents and drug regulators in Nigeria to sit up and ensure that only trained people are handling drugs.
“In Lagos for instance, registered pharmacies are not up to 70 but unregistered premises are over 2000. These premises are not being controlled and directed. This is not healthy for the country.
According to the Public Relations Officer, Pharm. Obigaeri Ikwu: “Drug abuse is a serious menace in the society. Pharmacists in the community should be the first port of call and the banner we are launching is to create awareness using the community pharmacist as first port of call.”
He said many people don’t even know they are abusing drugs. Most drugs being abused in Nigeria today include Codeine, an opioid analgesic also used in the management of pain and diarrhoea.
Other opioid analgesics which are also sometimes abused include morphine, pentazocine (fortwin), tramadol and pethidine. Also, they tend to cause respiratory depression in large doses.
According to a former Director-General, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Mr. Otunba Ipinmisho, in a report, about 40 per cent of Nigerian youths abuse drugs.