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Our youth and the codeine epidemic

CODEINE had for ages been a part of simple medications obtainable here over the counter for the relief of headaches, pains and coughs. It is generally described as a narcotic pain-reliever. However, young drug addicts have latched onto its side-effects such as drowsiness and intoxication (the feeling of being “high” because of their opioid contents) to make it one of their new-fangled favourites.

Codeine has joined the ranks of other toxic drugs such as tramadol, the sniffing of glues and pit toilets, and queer admixtures of toxic substances (which in urban slang is referred to as “science student”) to create the picture of a drug abuse time-bomb waiting to explode.

It is a nationwide menace with the upper North hardest-hit. In October 2017, the Senate was informed that “across the 19 states, women, young girls in tertiary institutions, working class ladies, married and unemployed women, the youth and persons displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency” were involved in drug abuse. It is also on record that in Kano and Jigawa alone, three million bottles of codeine are consumed daily.

In spite of reported arrests by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, the situation remains dire. A dangerous dimension recently developed when a university don blamed an ethnic group for upsurge of drug abuse in the North. The Kano State Government, in an effort to reduce the availability of these relatively cheap drugs, set up the Task Force on Drugs which confiscated and destroyed illicit drugs worth billions of naira.

The Federal Ministry of Health has also mandated the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC and the NDLEA to ban the importation of drugs with codeine as an active ingredient. Local manufacturers have also been directed to stop producing such drugs and some of them have already announced compliance.

With the youth (people 30 and below) constituting about 60 per cent of our 198 million population, we are faced with a future where about 120 million people stand the risk of being blighted by drug abuse. We call on the Federal and state governments to redouble their efforts in eliminating codeine, tramadol and other opioid-infused products from circulation because of the mental, psychological and social impairments they inflict on their abusers.

The easy availability of these drugs has contributed to the upsurge in violent crimes, such as kidnapping, robberies, murders, terrorism and other anti-social behaviours among the youths. We must mount a strong campaign to let our people know the dangers of the abuse of these drugs.

Most importantly, the youth need positive avenues to vent their energies. Idleness is a big precursor of drug addiction and criminality. We must create jobs, restore hope and self-confidence in our youths and give them reasons to fight for their future.



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