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Tramadol Abuse, A Ticking Time Bomb, EU, UNODC, Others Warn



The abuse of tramadol, an opiate analgesic prescribed for the treatment of  moderately severe pain by youths and young adult in West Africa has been described as a ticking time bomb by major international agencies in the sub region if left unchecked. TUNDE OGUNTOLA writes on this growing menace.

Tramadol is an opiate analgesic prescribed for the treatment of moderate to  severe pain. The drug works by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. Because Tramadol is a milder form of opiate medication, people falsely believe the drug is not addictive.

Tramadol dependence can develop after continued use and this can lead to addiction. For this reason, it’s important to take only as directed by your doctor. A quick survey on major suburbs where trash are not properly discarded show that a minimum of 10 to 20 empty packs of tramadol can be counted.

The rising use for non-medical purposes of tramadol by the Youth is widely reported in the West African Countries press: Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, etc. UNODC sounded alarm about more than 3 million tablets of tramadol concealed in UN branded packages that were seized in Niger during September 2017; and in January 2016, the Niger Police discovered 7 million tablets of Tramadol. All specialists agree to tackle what called the “Tramadol Crisis” in West Africa.

Speaking during a workshop organised by UNODC a workshop entitled “The Crisis of Tramadol and Other Prescription Medicines in West Africa – A multi-agency workshop convened to identify the challenges and seek solutions to address the problem”, the officer in charge, UNODC, Nigeria, Elisabeth Bayer said the workshop has three objectives; first, to brings together experts from other countries in the reach and it is a platform to share experience, share best practices on what can done about the crisis of pharmaceutical opioid in tramadol in the region.

Bayer said the use of tramadol in this part of the world among the youths, ‘’so it is indeed a ticking time bomb.’’

The officer in charge said the workshop was also organized to understand the crisis a little bit better, we have also expertise from international organizations such as INTERPOL, WHO, and from our doctoring section headquarter to present a little bit on fact on trends and different perspective.

She said the objective of the workshop is to set a strategic approach, actions and what can be done to tackle it.

According to Bayer: ‘’Tramadol is a pharmaceutical opioid and it is found here particularly in this part of the world, particularly in Africa, mainly West Africa central and North Africa.

‘’I think 80 or more than 80 per cent of the global seizures of these drugs are found in these African countries, so it is a worldwide menace but it is very serious problem in this part of the world. This opioid is planted like marijuana and it is a highly addictive drugs.

‘’It is also very much used by young people. But the other side of the problem is that the drug is actually used for medical purposes. It is used for pain treatment, so why we need to find measures to curb it down from a law enforcement point of few.

In his address, the Economic Commission, director, gender, youth and sports, Dr. Sintiki Ugbe decried that when the person starts using the drugs, after some few weeks or days you can become addicted

Ugbe who was represented by Daniel Akwasi Amankwaah said while tramadol itself has a weak affinity for the mu-opioid receptor, several of its metabolites have far more affinity, likely leading to some of the desirable effects of tramadol use.

He said unlike other centrally acting opioids (such as morphine or heroin), tramadol doesn’t seem to have a clinically relevant respiratory depression effect on patients (only seen in patients who take considerably more than the recommended dose).

According to her, ‘’By prescription, tramadol is most frequently taken orally, although intravenous and intramuscular formulations exist.  Effects that are associated with tramadol administration include: analgesia, euphoria, lack of inhibition and mellowed affect.

‘’As with most opioids, abstinent users experience cravings for tramadol. These cravings can be triggered by the environment or from situational awareness—anything that reminds the user of a time during which they were taking tramadol.

‘’Unfortunately, strong cravings often lead the abstinent user to relapse. The strength of craving seems to depend upon the level of dependence, tolerance, and the length of time the user has been taking tramadol.’’

Basically, the vast majority of tramadol abusers actually have a history of substance abuse (typically a substance other than tramadol), and many have been prescribed the medication legally for pain control purposes.

However, due to developed tolerance, users can become out of control and use far more tramadol than recommended, ultimately becoming addicted both physiologically and psychologically to the drug.

Tramadol addiction can have adverse effects on the user’s social, occupational, and mental health.

Many tramadol abusers report strained family relationships, as well as troubles in the workplace and/or at school. Due to their perpetual need to obtain tramadol, many abusers report financial trouble associated with clinic visits or purchasing the drug illegally.





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