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Drug Abuse by willbayo(m): 7:27am On Aug 27, 2015
Indiscriminate use of drugs worsen rape and armed robbery cases, BUKOLA ADEBAYO writes Drugs are sensitive substances that should not be toyed with under any circumstance. Doctors and pharmacists warn that any medicine in the hand of the wrong person is a potential poison. Unfortunately, that is usually the case in Nigeria. Anyone, including teenagers, can lay their hands on any medicine so far they know where to access it. Investigations by our correspondent who went to pharmacies in Lagos and Ogun states, who also spoke to operators of retail pharmacies, revealed that more young boys now buy and indiscriminately use sedatives, analgesics and other prescriptions drugs as options for marijuana and other hard drugs. A disturbing scenario played out during the course of this investigation. While our correspondent was making enquires at a chemist in Ikeja last Tuesday morning, two teenage boys, who came on a commercial bike popularly called okada, charged into the drug store. They seemed uneasy with the kind of attention their entrance had caused and signalled to the salesgirl to quickly attend to them as they were in a hurry. One of the boys asked for 10 tablets of tramadol, a bottle of a popular brand of cough mixture with codeine and a sachet of water popularly known as pure water in Nigeria. His friend also asked for the same medication. The timid girl obliged them and dispensed the drugs. In the twinkling of an eye, they swallowed the drugs and topped it with the cough mixture and jumped on the okada they chartered to the chemist and rode off. Tramadol , according to pharmacists, is a potent analgesic that works on the central nervous system by outing the brain to sleep. According to the experts, tramadol is classified as an opiod-like analgesic that should not be sold over the counter to any individual without a prescription from a physician. Opiods are drugs that are used for their euphoric and analgesic effects to treat chronic pain. Yet, it was sold by a chemist operator to the teenagers who swallowed them like candies. From Lagos to Kano, it’s all the same Although the law says for anybody to operate a retail drug store, he or she must have a degree in pharmacy, investigations conducted by our correspondent revealed that many drug outlets are daily violating this regulation. Consequently, people who should not have anything to do with drug sale are now into the business big time. Drugs are sold like bread, biscuits, Kola nuts and any other articles of trade in Nigeria. Illiterate salesmen, unqualified pharmacists and nurses are all involved. You find some of them at street corners in different parts of the country, in motor parks and even in stores doing their business unperturbed, particularly at night when members of the taskforce have closed for the day. From Lagos to Kano, Aba to Onitsha, and Osogbo to Maiduguri, fake pharmacists do not only sell drugs, they also dispense such to young people who are looking to abuse them. For instance, a middle-aged girl, who sold 50 and 100 milligrammes of tramadol to our correspondent at a drug store in Magboro, Ogun State on Monday, did not ask for a prescription before she sold it. She neither took the details of her customer nor asked for why our correspondent wanted the drug. Asked if there was a pharmacist on ground to recommend the dosage, the lady admonished our correspondent, saying, “We don’t have a pharmacist here. You should know how many you will need and how to take a drug before you buy it. Do you think it’s every pharmacy that is operated by a pharmacist?” Earlier in the day, the first store that our correspondent visited in Arepo, a largely residential area in Ogun, did not have a pharmacist on ground even though the emblem in front of the drug store had ‘Pharmacist -on- duty’ boldly written on it. The woman manning the store assured our correspondent that she could be of assistance to her in spite of the experts’ absence. Our correspondent, who asked for tramadol or any drug with codeine, was told that the outlet had exhausted its stock and wondered why many people had asked for the same drugs lately. She said, “You are the second person to ask for tramadol today. I am going to tell our Oga to be buying more. I sold two cartons of a cough syrup with codeine last month and that does not happen regularly.” Abuse linked to growing incidence of rape, armed robbery However, our correspondent had a different encounter with Mr. Olumide Adesanya, the pharmacist-on-duty at another retail outlet in the same area. The first thing he asked for when the journalist wanted to buy tramadol was a prescription note. He also wanted to know why she wanted it. Adesanya told our correspondent that a 19-year- old- boy and his friends came wanting to buy a carton of a cough mixture at the pharmacy last month. “I was shocked when he made this request because I wonder what a 19-year-old would want to do with 40 bottles of a cough syrup. Just because it has codeine? I sent them out of my store. Even though codeine in cough syrup can be sold over the counter, I refused to sell it. “Tramadol is meant to be sold with a prescription from a doctor. That is why I ask every customer for it and also ask for their age. I also must know what you need it for because people just walk in to ask for drugs they don’t need. He explained that tramadol has been used to sedate rape victims and rob innocent Nigerians in recent times. Adesanya said, “Tramadol is an analgesic that works on the central nervous system. It puts the brain to sleep so that its ingredients can relieve pain. It is actually meant to be a pain-relieving medication but rapists put it in drinks to put their victims to sleep. “Codeine has some ingredients that ease the nerves which make people feel good. So, young people who can’t access hard drugs will buy four bottles and drink it like alcohol when they want to get high. Many have taken it and gone into a coma. “A colleague of mine was killed in Niger State because he refused to sell codeine to a group of boys after they had made several attempts to buy at his store.” A robbery incident that occurred last month in the Sapati area of Ilorin in Kwara State may have confirmed Adesanya’s position. According to the Kwara State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ajayi Okesanmi, the police had arrested a group of cultists after they had put tramadol inside a soft drink to rob a young lady in the area. According to Okesanmi, bandits usually offer drug-laden drinks to their victims to put them to sleep while they dispossess the victim of his or her valuables. He noted that this was the new devious strategy that cultists had devised to not only rob but also rape their victims. He warned the public to be cautious of such evil schemes and avoid taking drinks from unknown people as such might have been poisoned with analgesics. Some inject themselves with the drugs – Psychiatrist Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Peter Ogunnubi, told our correspondent that more persons now had mental issues due to drug abuse. Ogunnubi said, “Tramadol and codeine are not the only drug that young people use indiscriminately. They also take diazepam, pentazocine, amadol and some strong anagelsics anyhow. Even though NAFDAC has tried by insisting that only codeine-free cough syrups should be sold in the market, they are still there. We still have other drugs that have codeine that are being sold indiscriminately in the market. It is going to be difficult to mop up these medicines in open drug markets because they are in high demand.” He noted that many of the young persons administered these drugs on themselves, using injections, thereby exposing themselves to hepatitis infections, HIV/AIDS infections, skin ulcers and other deadly infections. “ Many of them use needles to administer the drugs on one another,” he stressed. Tramadol Ogunnubi stated that people who abused these substances also suffered from drug addiction which would not only affect them psychologically but also affect their productivity and relationships with their loved ones. He said, “ It is an addictive problem that will tell on every aspect of their lives. Because they get unusual satisfaction from these drugs, they neglect every other thing. They will forgo their studies, families and even abscond from school because they will no longer be able to concentrate. Let’s not forget that they are young. So, they don’t have much money on them. Hence, they are ready to do anything – including stealing to get N350 to buy tramadol or diasoprene to get high. “Imagine a young boy who could have been a renowned scientist lying in a mental institution because his friends got him hooked on codeine.” The psychiatrist and medical director, Grace Cottage Clinic, a private mental health hospital in Ikorodu, also noted that those who abused the substances were more prone to violence and other criminal activities, including armed robbery. Ogunnubi stated,“ They don’t only administer these drugs to sedate their victims, they also use them to boost their self confidence to do terrible things. The substances change their personalities. They don’t see anything wrong in beating their loved ones or strangers.” He appealed to parents and guardians, including school authorities, to watch out for any unusual behaviour in their wards. According to him, any change in attitude that tends to the negative should not be dismissed. “ I will appeal to the parents to talk with their children. School authorities should also discuss any change in a child’s behaviour to the parents. Many of them use these drugs to cope with many forms of challenges they face at home or in school. “Any child with such a problem should be taken to a doctor for psychoanalysis and rehabilitation.” Shut down open drug markets – Pharmacist The National Chairman, Lagos State Chapter of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, Biola Paul-Ozieh , also raised the alarm over increasing demand for tramadol and codeine among teenagers. She lamented that teenagers had been caught concocting large quantities of tramadol to be used as sedatives and aphrodisiacs. According to Paul-Ozieh, reports from her colleagues operating retail pharmacies in various parts of the country show that there has been an unusual demand for these two drugs from young people in recent times. She said, “More young people are now abusing drugs that they have no business with and it’s alarming from the reports we are getting from our colleagues. The worst is the abuse of tramadol which is supposed to be a prescription drug. They come in to ask for it and when you question them about it, they go to the ‘abokis’ – mallams – and chemists in the neighbourhood to buy it. “We see it a lot in the communities where we practise – teenagers asking for anything with codeine to get high.” The pharmacists identified the open drug market system in the country as a major factor that has allowed such illegal activities to thrive. Adesanya said, “The sale and regulation of over- the-counter and prescriptions drugs will not work until government shuts down the open drug markets. “Many of these young people just go to the Idumota drug market where they sell drugs in any quantity to anyone without asking any question. “ Many operators of these wholesale and retail drug stores are not even literate. They just want to make profit so they have no standards because they are not even trained pharmacists. They know that these young people want to abuse these drugs, yet they sell them or why else will you sell four bottles of codeine to a young man? “The government must wake up and address issues relating to the sale, distribution and circulation of drugs in Nigeria. They must ask themselves what the qualification of those stocking and dispensing drugs is in this country. The trend is alarming. That is why regulatory agencies must help vulnerable Nigerians http://punchng.com

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