My heart is bleeding for my country because of the damage that drug addiction is inflicting on Nigerian youths. I have always been aware of the dangers of drug abuse on any society. But I shuddered after reading a recent BBC report titled, “How Cough Syrup in Nigeria is Creating a Generation of Addicts”, because of the enormity of the problem that was revealed.
The report took the BBC journalist deep into Nigeria’s criminal underworld, uncovering an epidemic that is destroying young lives across West Africa.
Like all opioids, codeine is in the same chemical family as heroin. It’s an effective painkiller, but it is also capable of giving you a euphoric high if consumed in large quantities. It is highly addictive, and taken in excess, can have devastating impact on the mind and body.
The BBC report also revealed that in addition to kidney damage and seizures, serious abuse of codeine cough syrup can result in mental psychosis-delusion, hallucination, and even schizophrenia. Many of the syrup addicts in rehabilitation centres can become so violent that staff chain them to the floor. It is that bad and horrendous. And our youths are consuming this lethal drug every day, thereby wasting their future and the future of Nigeria. Sadly, not much of this epidemic are reported in the media or emphasized upon by opinion leaders who appear more concerned about politics. Yet the dangers of drug abuse of all sorts confront us every day on the roads, at the workplace, schools, and at our homes among others.
Travelling across country by road has become indeed scary. The roads are bad to say the least, but the real danger is the fact that most drivers, particularly commercial drivers, “shine their eyes well, well” before they start out on their journeys! Motor parks across the nation have become points of drug and alcohol sales! I actually live near such a terminus and I can tell you that it is bad. I live in Asokoro Abuja, close to AYA Roundabout, which is now a taxi and bus terminus of sorts. Drivers hangout there while waiting their turns! While they hangout, they consume all “every every”! Right in the park, you can see them quaffing all manner of hot drinks and smoking Indian hemp as well. And all is, in the full glare of VIO officers.
You can also see uniformed men openly cavorting and fraternising with both hemp and alcohol! Cough syrup bottles litter their feet while tramadol is openly consumed and mixed with all manners of hot drinks some of which are laced with herbs and the like. You can now understand why cab and bus drivers often behave as though possessed. Indeed, they are! Sadly enough, students are not left out in this new craze for mind-bending drugs! Universities, those citadels of learning are fast becoming palaces for drug dealers and drugged out students who have no value for human lives.
Most people don’t seem to get that the student cult culture is also a drug culture. Their initiations always involve heavy alcohol and drug use. It is their heavy drug use that numb their feelings to the point that they can without qualms behead fellow students who happen to be members of opposing cult groups! When you consider the rise in horrendous and despicable crime in our clime, you realise how much drugs has degraded public morality and the sanity of the 20 to 50 year olds! Women are not exempt either. Indeed, the Senate has a report that Kano and Jigawa states alone consume over 3 million bottles of Codeine laced cough syrup daily. It is now common to find girls as little as 12 years old, smoking Indian hemp in the open.
Indeed, recently, I visited a friend in Karu area and the sight he showed me flabbergasted and suckered me. He took me to his bedroom window through which we could look down into a neighborhood joint. I could see school children in uniform buying and smoking Indian hemp. I could also see nursing mothers with babies on their backs smoking hemp and drinking ‘paraga’! Indeed, we have an epidemic in our hands! We have an epidemic that has deep ramifications for the future of our country as well as for our security as a people! And that is why all hands must be on deck to check the menace of drug abuse! Which is why this column must commend the Senate for their recent attempt to rise to the occasion! They passed a motion in an attempt to draw attention to the drug epidemic which is really threatening families and putting vulnerable kids in psychiatric wards! These are kids who should otherwise be in schools and universities! In the motion, Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai (APC, Borno) said that drug abuse, especially cannabis and cocaine, had been a long-term problem among male youths in northern states. “Codeine cough syrup and other prescriptive drugs have become as termed, ‘the new cancer ravaging women and girls in the North.’” The lawmaker said that abuse of codeine syrup and other controlled drugs currently constituted the greatest challenge faced by youths and drug officers in Northern Nigeria. He noted that there were several reports about young girls in tertiary institutions in the country who had taken to an alarming abuse of the codeine cough syrup.
“This problem is destroying even the mothers in homes as they use same codeine and other drugs as an escape from their abusive relationships and invariably get hooked on them,” Garbai said. Is anyone therefore surprised at the spate of domestic violence that is ravaging the land? It is time we all woke up to the fact that drugs have made a grand entry into our cities, our towns, our villages and possibly our homes! And unless we face up and take steps to contain the scourge, it may, like corruption, overcome us! The obvious fact is the influence of foreign media but there is also the fact that parental structures have become weak coupled by the fact that our children have very little to look up to. Their lives are basically hopeless and full of voids. Unfortunately, they use drugs to fill the void!
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