Codeine Cough Syrup: A Saving Grace or Disgrace for Nigerian Youth, By Seye Ken

Fellow Nigeria youth, it’s now imperative to discuss the problematic issue of drug abuse and the illegal use of Codeine cough syrup in our society these days. I was provoked to conceive the notion of writing this article after I watched a documentary on BBC on the abuse of Codeine syrup in our country. A sigh of relief was dispatched from my nostrils when I saw how generations are being wasted. I believe it’s important as a social commentator and writer to also join this crusade of protest against the abusive use of Codeine cough syrup from my little corner. Nigeria is blessed with huge population of which over 60 percent are youth and it’s quintessential to further discuss the implications of this syrup considering the big threat it poses to our most economically active agent.

Many reasons have been adduced to support the spread of this menace, but the main cause in this part of the world has been the rise in youth unemployment which has resulted in the production of depressed citizens. In one of the documentary I watched, a man said he has turned to use codeine so that he won’t have to worry about everyday problems which he has no solution to. By the way, what is this? Codeine syrup can be explained as a medicine that is being prescribed to patients in order to relieve pain and suppress persistent cough.  Codeine as an opiate is also used to induce sleep. It has been established however, that many drugs contain codeine but the ones that is mostly abused by youth has a composition of promethazine. Although Codeine and promethazine is an approved generic drug but its usage has been clearly spelt out because of the danger the drug poses to humanity. It was recommended that a dose of one teaspoon every four to six hours if need be, but the maximum dose an adult can take is two teaspoons daily.

Nevertheless, it is explainable why many Nigeria youths developed undying love for this particular syrup nowadays. To affirm this, just recently it was reported that in Kano State, one million bottles of Codeine are consumed daily. More so, the side effect that has been identified with the abusive use of Codeine is highly destructive and I don’t know why people still take pride in it. Yes, you heard me right! We must therefore not forget that many consumers of this solution are mostly youths in all spheres of life. Students, professionals, underemployed, unemployed and what have you. The shocking part of this narrative is that most of them know the damaging effects of abusing this drug. They are also aware that too much of Codeine can cause seizure, mental disorder, heart malfunctioning, dizziness, drowsiness and other harmful consequences. Some have even experienced the side effects or seen it in their addicted colleagues but they are still so attached.

Some weeks ago, Nigeria government banned the use of Codeine cough syrup after BBC opened their eyes to the cancerous act that has been lingering for a while in the country’s social life. To say this step alone will discourage the intent of many youth in taking this substance is like polishing a lie. This decision may just make the market more profitable and interesting. Although it may seem to be a temporary solution but people will always get it through the black market and this will be the main thing. To put forward my position on this endemic palaver of the illegal use of Codeine cough syrup and drug abuse properly, I think the government should without delay embark on a survey to know why many Nigerian youths have decided to take a therapeutic succor in substance abuse. The government cannot afford to play this game of pretence; there must be a serious approach to this. I think banning it is a part of the solutions, but there should be more to that. We must not be ignorant that this is taking many of our young talent to the early grave, people that may have been designed as solution providers or problem solvers. A sizeable numbers of our human capital are being wasted away every single day.

Apart from Codeine, many illicit drugs are in circulation and many youth live on it daily. Drugs like morphine, tramadol, rohypnol, fentanyl, Valium, ephedrine and so on. Drug market is really a thriving business in Nigeria of today. Many of these drugs has a street nomenclature, consumers have their slang-name they call them. For example Codeine is called “School Boy” or “Blunts”. Also, there is what they called “Purple Drank” a new way Codeine is being enjoyed- a process whereby Codeine is mixed with soft drinks like Sprite, Fanta and even Mountain Dew. Drug abuse has really reduced the moral consciousness of most youth, and this calls for an urgent intervention.

However, the responsibilities do not lie with the government alone. We must discourage how today musicians celebrate illicit drugs through their musical contents. Back in the days, most songs released promote morality, frown against injustice and also serve as good recipe for social unity. The reverse is the case in today’s music, some songs are just designed specifically to promote the use of drugs and we called it entertainment. As a nation, we must stop to leave in pretence and call a spade a spade, most of these songs are contributing to the increase use of Codeine syrup and other forms of drug abuse and it can even be seen as one of the major cause.

As I draw close on this piece, I will love to urge the government to take the fight against the use of Codeine syrup beyond it ban. It is on record that most of the drugs banned by government, still later find their way through the back door to the consumer e.g. cocaine, marijuana and so on. It is indeed crucial for government to diagnose the reason behind the intention of the consumers of these drugs in order to discourage such behavior, the authority should not focus on punishment alone, it might not yield the expected results. Government should find ways to collaborate with relevant organizations including private and NGOs to create more jobs for the teeming Nigerian unemployed youth as an idle hand is a devil’s workshop. Closely linked to this is the need to provide critical infrastructure that would support youth entrepreneurship and empowerment initiatives. Above all, a modern rehabilitation center must be built by all state governments with appropriate facilities and professionals so as to rehabilitate the drug addicts and integrate them properly back to the society if at all we are all serious about fighting this. Please, let’s help these lost souls. God bless Nigerian youths.



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